Bloc move to pressure member states seen as violating principle of free trade
The China Chamber of Commerce to the EU, or CCCEU, voiced deep concerns over the European Commission's recent actions to pressure its member states to avoid using 5G equipment made by Huawei and ZTE.
The CCCEU statement on Saturday came two days after the European Union published its second progress report on the implementation of the EU Toolbox on 5G Cybersecurity by urging more member states to enact restrictions on the so-called "high-risk suppliers" Huawei and ZTE.
European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton lamented on Thursday that only 10 of all 27 member states have restricted or excluded "high-risk "vendors.
"This is too slow, and it poses a major security risk and exposes the union's collective security since it creates a major dependency for the EU and serious vulnerabilities."
Breton said the European Commission considered the decisions taken by certain member states to restrict or exclude completely Huawei and ZTE from their 5G networks as justified and in line with the toolbox.
"The commission will implement the 5G toolbox principles to its own procurement of telecom services, to avoid exposure to Huawei and ZTE," he said.
He alleged that "Huawei and ZTE represent in fact materially higher risks than other 5G suppliers" but gave no evidence.
The CCCEU said the European Commission's actions to publicly pressure member states to avoid using 5G equipment from Huawei and ZTE contravene WTO rules.
"Publicly singling out Chinese enterprises as 'high-risk vendors' without legal basis is against the principles of free trade," said the chamber, which represents Chinese business entities across the EU.
"It is of paramount importance to emphasize that the discriminatory 'high-risk vendors' assessment shall not be applied to any vendor without justified procedure and an adequate hearing," the chamber said.
The chamber described it as a matter of serious concern for the Chinese investors and for their local business partners in Europe.
"The CCCEU expresses serious worries on behalf of all our members about the worsening business environment in Europe," the statement said.
The EU has been under great pressure from the United States since the Donald Trump administration to ban Huawei 5G from EU networks.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin criticized the EU's actions.
"The European Commission keeps alleging that Chinese telecom firms such as Huawei and ZTE pose a security risk, but has yet to demonstrate any evidence," he told a daily briefing on Friday.
"This is a typical presumption of guilt. We firmly oppose it."
Wang said that since Huawei and ZTE started operations in Europe many years ago, they have not only done no harm to European countries' security, but they have contributed substantially to the growth of Europe's telecom sector and generated considerable socioeconomic benefits.
He also criticized the EU for violating the spirit of rule of law and the principle of market economy, free trade and fair competition.
"We strongly urge the EU to comply with international trade rules, not to make everything political or about security, and not to suppress foreign firms in the name of security."
"Openness, inclusiveness, and fairness are eagerly needed now, and we should all assume our social responsibilities and honor our commitments to make consumers less burdened and investors more confident," the CCCEU said in its statement.