Finland’s communications minister denounced the idea on Thursday of the US buying a controlling stake in Nokia and Ericsson to counter Chinese giant Huawei’s dominance of the 5G telecoms market.
Last week US Attorney General Bill Barr said the US should “put our large market and financial muscle” behind one or both of the Finnish and Swedish equipment makers, allowing them to better compete with Huawei, which the US accuses of having close ties to Beijing.
Speaking in the margins of a conference on 5G security in Finland’s capital Helsinki, Communications Minister Timo Harakka said he was “skeptical” about the attorney general’s suggestion.
“I think the independence of Nokia and Ericsson is fine as it is now,” Harakka said.
“And wouldn’t it be rather ironic that, if we are wanting to guard the market economy and capitalism, that we would then resort to similar state aid practices that we criticize China for?” he added.
The US has struggled to confront the challenge of Huawei, which has already sold its market-proven 5G equipment and software to many countries around the world.
US national security officials claim Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government will give Beijing intelligence access to the world’s telecoms networks, enabling them to hijack communications and hamper the ability of other countries and companies to protect their secrets.
Washington has banned the use of Huawei equipment by government entities and strongly urged the private sector to forgo it.
However, they have failed in efforts to convince European governments to follow suit.
France on Thursday said it would not bow to American pressure to exclude Huawei from supplying equipment for its 5G networks, though the Chinese telecommunications firm could be subject to restrictions.
Last month the EU and UK both released guidelines saying that governments should avoid dependence on “high risk” suppliers of 5G equipment when building their next-generation mobile networks, but stopped short of naming any one vendor outright.
On Thursday, Harakka praised the EU’s “common sense” approach, saying it allowed for networks that are both secure and competitive.
“We cannot be dependent on one sole supplier on any part of the network, let alone the critical parts of the network,” he said.
The 5G internet allows for near-instant transfers of data, enabling technology such as that used in driverless cars or remotely controlled robots in operating theaters or factories.