French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Huawei’s willingness to open a factory in France would not change “the government’s position on 5G in any way”. EURACTIV’s partner La Tribune reports.
Investments made by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei will not influence France’s 5G doctrine, said Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday (4 March) on BFM business.
The Chinese telecoms and smartphone giant announced last Thursday (27 February) that it would open a factory dedicated to 5G equipment in France, for which it would invest at least €200 million and initially employ 500 people.
Although the factory’s location hasn’t yet been determined, Huawei chairman Liang Hua said at a press conference that this would be the group’s first plant for this type of product outside China.
“The site will initially manufacture radio equipment (e.g. antennas, editor’s note) and then expand to other products in the future, according to the needs of the European market,” Liang Hua explained.
However, the announcement came at an important time for Huawei, which the US still accuses of spying for Beijing. The Shenzhen group should soon know to what extent its 5G equipment will be authorised – or not – in France.
French telecom companies SFR and Bouygues Telecom, which already use Huawei in their 4G networks, have filed applications with the National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (Anssi) to use Huawei’s 5G services again.
Its first responses are expected shortly.
“We are looking after our security interests”
Several observers believe that Huawei’s announcement would likely prompt the French government to be more flexible towards the Chinese group.
But on BFM Business, Lemaire assured that this would not be the case.
Asked about possible “blackmail” by the powerful equipment manufacturer, the economy minister assured: “Nobody, and certainly not me, gives in to any blackmail whatsoever. There is a very clear position that has been taken on 5G: we do not discriminate against any particular company, whether Chinese or American”.
“But we are simply looking after our security interests and our strategic interests,” the economy minister said, adding that Huawei’s announcement “does not change “the government’s position on 5G in any way,” he added.
Generally speaking, the French executive appears to be distancing itself from Huawei. It is reportedly irritated by the group’s extensive lobbying in France, as French newspaper Le Figaro explained last Thursday.
In short, the government wants to avoid mixing up security and sovereignty issues related to 5G with promises of jobs and investments.
At the same time, Beijing is not hesitating to pressure Paris.
Last month, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in France threatened the country that if it were to discriminate against Huawei, Beijing could take retaliatory measures, including against European equipment manufacturers Ericsson and Nokia, which are involved in the deployment of 5G in China.