POWER & POLITICS

Donald Trump undermined Canada on Huawei arrest, says former U.S. ambassador

Former U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke says Donald Trump undermined Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou when he remarked that he could intervene in the case if it helped secure a trade deal.

Gary Locke weighs in on arrest, Chinese retaliation and Huawei security concerns

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive for a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (REUTERS)

Former U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke said Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump undermined Canada over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou when he said that he would intervene in the case if it could help secure a trade deal with China.

In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Locke said the extradition process has always been viewed as independent and separate from politics. But Trump's offer in a Reuters interview to insert himself into the case — "if I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made" — may have made Canada's actions appear to the Chinese as an attempt at securing leverage.

"And so if the president is intervening, then the Chinese will say, 'OK Canada, why don't you intervene? Why don't you just simply refuse to extradite this person to the United States?" he said.

Canadian officials have maintained that the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng happened without political interference and that the process is unfolding in accordance with the rule of law and international treaties.

The U.S. is seeking Meng's extradition on charges related to the alleged violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

At a press conference last Friday alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered what could be interpreted as a veiled rebuke of Trump's remarks.

"Canada understands that the rule of law and extradition issues ought not to ever be politicized or used as tools to resolve other issues," said Freeland. "That is the very clear position which Canada expresses to all of its partners."

Further escalation?

Following Meng's arrest, China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 on suspicion of "endangering national security."

Locke said he sees the two events as linked and describes China's detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor as typical of Beijing's tactics when it wants to send a warning to a foreign government.

Locke's remarks echo the assessment of former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, who told Power & Politics last week that "in China, there's no coincidence."

In terms of escalation, though, Locke said he doesn't think there's more to come on the Chinese side — at least in the short term.

"I think there will be a pause until they see what happens in that extradition hearing. Will Canada extradite the CFO to the United States?" said Locke.

"It really puts Canada in a difficult predicament because law enforcement between the United States and Canada (has) long had a history of good cooperation — apolitical, nonpolitical. But of course, the charges against the CFO of Huawei right now come at a very difficult political moment during these very tense and delicate trade talks and trade friction between the United States and China."

Huawei security concerns

Meng's arrest has also led to renewed scrutiny of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones, after Samsung.

U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials have long warned of national security concerns stemming from Huawei's murky connections to the Chinese government.

Locke said those security concerns revolve around the company's equipment and the role it plays in telecommunications infrastructure.

"The fear is that somehow Huawei, with its close ties to the Chinese government, will have the capability of putting some sort of devices or spying on or collecting information from the people of the countries in which their equipment is installed," he said.

"Or that they can somehow use that equipment to disrupt the normal flow of telecommunications, if the Chinese government were to direct them to do so."

Several countries have moved to bar Huawei equipment from their 5G network infrastructures, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

Canada is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the 5G technology movement, but has not yet announced a ban on Huawei technology.

Watch the full interview below.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke joined Power & Politics Tuesday to discuss the state of Canada-China-U.S. relations in the wake of the Canadian arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and the subsequent Chinese detention of two Canadians. 13:20

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.