HONG KONG—Huawei Technologies Co. is using the U.K.’s decision allowing the Chinese company to build parts of its 5G networks to push Australia to rethink its ban, as the tech giant steps up efforts to sway U.S. intelligence allies from the Trump administration’s doomsday warnings.
Australia took the lead in blocking Huawei from participating in its 5G network rollout in restrictions announced in 2018. Officials said then that vulnerabilities introduced in superfast 5G networks meant Huawei couldn’t be trusted to build those networks.
The Trump administration subsequently pressured other allies in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, from allowing Huawei to build 5G networks. But the U.K. on Tuesday decided it would allow Huawei to participate in building nonsensitive parts of its 5G network, while placing a 35% cap on its 5G market share.
On Wednesday, Huawei indicated it was looking for a reconsideration by Canberra, Australia’s national capital. In a statement, Jeremy Mitchell, the director of public affairs for Huawei Australia, said the U.K.’s decision showed that Australian officials were given “incorrect advice” about the nature of 5G networks, saying the U.K. decision showed “there is a way to manage security on 5G networks without excluding vendors.”
A spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country’s position remained unchanged. Still, London’s decision may set a precedent for other U.S. allies weighing pressure from Washington to ban Huawei.
“The Trump administration’s dream of creating a global 5G network completely free of Chinese telecom equipment is not a reality,” said Samm Sacks, a cybersecurity expert at the Washington-based think tank New America. Instead, she said, the U.K. decision is likely to lead to “a patchwork around the world” of approaches to the Chinese giant.
American allies weighing restrictions on Huawei include Canada, which along with Australia, the U.S., the U.K. and New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes. Germany is also considering Huawei’s participation in its 5G network, though there are signs that an outright ban isn’t likely there either.
The European Union on Wednesday recommended that member countries restrict companies from supplying sensitive 5G technology if they pose a high security risk. The recommendations didn’t name Huawei but suggested the EU could use trade policies against foreign firms that violate the bloc’s laws, such as by receiving illegal government subsidies or sharing consumer data with foreign governments. Huawei said it “welcomes Europe’s decision, which enables Huawei to continue participating in Europe’s 5G roll-out.”
As in the U.K., telecom operators in Australia are longtime buyers of Huawei gear. That is in contrast with the U.S., which has effectively banned major operators from buying from the Shenzhen-based giant. Trump administration officials believe that Huawei—the world’s largest maker of cellular equipment and No. 2 smartphone maker—would be unable to resist pressure by Beijing to share information carried on its networks, a charge that Huawei denies.
The U.K. decision assumes that the risk of using Huawei gear can be mitigated by barring the company’s gear from sensitive “core” parts of the network. Australian officials, in barring Huawei in 2018, said a distinction between core and peripheral parts of the network doesn’t hold in 5G. The spokesman for Prime Minister Morrison’s office said it “was a decision we took in Australia’s national interest, and we stand by it, and it was not directed at any one operator.”
Andrew Little, the security bureau minister in New Zealand, which has also blocked Huawei from its 5G networks, said the U.K. decision had no bearing on the country’s policy. New Zealand blocked carrier Spark New Zealand from buying Huawei gear in late 2018.
Canada and Britain have tended to adopt similar practices about overseeing the use of Huawei equipment on their networks, and the U.K.’s decision could ease some pressure on Ottawa, which has faced criticism from some domestic security officials and the U.S. about Huawei’s dominant market share in the country’s wireless network.
However, Canada is not expected to make any decision about the use of Huawei’s 5G equipment in the country’s wireless networks until China releases from prison two Canadians—a former diplomat and a businessman—who were arrested last year, shortly after Huawei’s chief finance executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada. The U.S. alleges Ms. Meng helped Huawei violate U.S. sanctions on Iran, and is seeking her extradition. She and the company have denied the allegations.
—Jacquie McNish in Toronto and Catherine Stupp in Brussels contributed to this article.
The post Huawei Urges Australia to Follow U.K. in Taking Its Gear appeared first on WSJ.