No Huawei ban, but relations with China 'complex': EU foreign policy chief

News June 1, 2019 No Comments

No Huawei ban, but relations with China 'complex': EU foreign policy chief

SINGAPORE: The European Union (EU) is not currently planning to ban the Chinese technology giant Huawei, which has become an acrimonious subject of dispute between the US and China in recent weeks, its foreign policy chief, Frederica Mogherini, said on Saturday (Jun 1).

The US administration has accused the Chinese technology giant of industrial espionage, receiving unfair subsidies, and having too close ties with the Chinese government.

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“The position we have at the moment is definitely not (to ban Huawei),” Mogherini said in an interview with CNA on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue of security chiefs in Singapore.

Several EU countries have already said they do not see using Huawei equipment as a security risk. Earlier this year the Netherlands’ leading wireless carrier, KPN, picked Huawei to provide equipment for its 5G wireless network.

READ: Mahathir says Malaysia will use Huawei ‘as much as possible’

Mogherini, whose official title is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, described the EU’s relations with China as “complex”.

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She pointed out that the EU cooperates with China on many issues like climate change and the Iran nuclear deal – two issues where Brussels is at odds with Washington – but the two parties “obviously have different systems and different values when it comes to the political system, democracy and human rights”.

NO NEW BREXIT DEAL, EVEN WITH NEW UK PM

Mogherini was adamant that there would be no renegotiation of the Brexit deal, even after the United Kingdom decides on a new prime minister in a few weeks.

Current UK leader Prime Minister Theresa May will officially resign on Jun 7 after repeatedly failing to convince her own Conservative Party to accept the exit agreement that she had negotiated with Brussels.

Some of the various contenders jostling to replace her have directly, or indirectly, claimed that they would be able to force Brussels back to the negotiation table and cut a better deal for the UK.

“You have two sides negotiating. It is very difficult to imagine that if one of the sides changes leadership, the other 27 – plus the European parliament – would be ready to restart from scratch. That wouldn’t make much sense,” Mogherini said.

READ: Commentary: The brief but remarkable prime ministership of Theresa May

EU-ASEAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

With the global trading system seeing some turmoil, the European Union is keen to cut deals with regional blocs like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Southeast Asian bloc is the EU’s third biggest trading partner – after China and the US. Around 227 billion euros worth of goods was traded between the two regions in 2017.  The EU has also been investing heavily in links with the Southeast Asian region – the EU is the largest foreign direct investor in ASEAN.

But some Southeast Asian countries are responding coldly to the EU’s overtures.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s biggest producers of palm oil, accounting for a whopping 85 per cent of global output. However, the EU plans to cut back on subsidies on palm oil for use as a biofuel – due to deforestation concerns – which Indonesia and Malaysia argue unfairly targets their exports.

A few weeks ago Teresa Kok, Malaysia’s minister of primary industries warned the EU that the palm oil issue could be a “deal-breaker” for EU-ASEAN trade relations.

However, the foreign policy chief downplayed the friction, arguing that the EU was not planning an outright ban but rather that it will be reducing subsidies to palm oil which is not produced in a sustainable manner.

“First of all I want to say that relations with both with Indonesia and Malaysia are excellent. I believe (this issue) will not take hostage our relationship,” she said.

“Especially when it comes to palm oil, we understand the social impact it would have. We know that very well. And we do not have any intention or desire to disrupt the economic, social, commercial systems that are based on that,” Mogherini added.

“I am convinced that wisdom will prevail, and especially that reality check will prevail.”

Watch the full interview with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini on “In Conversation” Jun 7, 9pm on CNA.

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