Now is not the time to turn our backs on free trade

Now is not the time to turn our backs on free trade

At Huawei we prefer to focus on developing our cutting-edge technology rather than talking about politics – we’d rather leave that to the politicians – but the current trade problems between Australia and China require some comment on our part.

As a company that was born in Shenzhen, China in 1987 and now operates in some 170 countries all over the world we can say with some confidence that globalization and free trade has been very good for our company.

However, we can also say with some confidence that the arrival of Huawei as a major player in the global telecommunications market has also been hugely beneficial to the countries in which we operate.

For example, here in Australia we have, at our peak, directly employed over 1,000 Australians in high-tech, high-wage jobs and also provided employment to thousands more Australians as sub-contractors all over the country.

Since starting up operations here we have pumped billions of dollars into the local economy and, more importantly, we have supplied Australians with the best mobile technology available on the planet.

Before Huawei’s technology came to Australia the country was served by a duopoly of vendors that treated the country like a branch office, not somewhere to be taken all that seriously, but once we proved we could win business here that forced our rivals to up their games too.

That intense competition between vendors has played a huge role in helping Australia’s mobile operators deliver what are widely regarded as some of the very best 4G networks in the world.

Think about that for a second, whilst we all know that our fixed-line broadband is ranked something like 70th in the world, wholly thanks to the ongoing $51 billion NBN debacle, our mobile broadband consistently ranks in the top 10 internationally.

Given the nature of our country and the huge geographic challenges it presents to telecoms network deployments such a high-ranking can only be achieved by access to the world’s best technology such as that which we have supplied to Optus and Vodafone.

So, we at Huawei, are unashamedly big supporters of free-trade and open markets, we feel that this is the best way for countries to operate moving forward into the future.

By allowing open access to trade and products we create huge benefits to consumers out there in the real world by allowing them access to the best technology in the world at very affordable prices.

There is no better example than the way in which Huawei’s entry into the smartphone market has allowed hundreds of millions of people all over the world to be able to afford a reasonably priced smartphone – before our entry only those consumers able to pay thousands of dollars could afford to get one.

Not only that, but once Huawei showed the world that you could make smartphones at affordable prices then – guess what? – many other companies started to produce phones at similar price points meaning that consumers can now get fantastic smartphones for a fraction of the price they once could.

There is a similar story to be told in the mobile network segment too, Huawei has gone in and connected people in countries that other companies would barely deign to set foot in – but we have connected tens of millions of people in these countries.

Delivering connectivity to these countries has, quite literally, changed lives in ways in which it is actually quite hard for many in the west to even imagine.

In many cases delivering affordable phones alongside connectivity for the time in developing countries has allowed local traders, be they fishermen or farmers, to actually seek out new markets for their products for the first time.

All of this has only been possible because of free trade and competition and you only have to look at the handful of countries around the world that don’t allow that to take place to see where you can end up, it’s certainly not a place you want to end up in.

As we all know Huawei became the first major victim of the political problems between Australia and China when we were banned from 5G by the Turnbull Government back in August 2018.

That decision has caused nearly 700 job losses at our company and has delayed the availability of 5G in this country by at least 18 months and increased the cost of deployment by around 30% – it has been hugely damaging.

That’s why our sympathies lay with those Australian farmers and producers whose livelihoods are being impacted by the current trade problems between Australia and China.

We know how infuriating it is to have a profitable and hugely productive business ripped out from underneath you by political machinations over which you have no control – we really do feel their pain and hope that they find a resolution to their problems.

The problems we have experienced in Australia on 5G have only served to cement our belief that our world is at its strongest when we keep our eyes firmly on the benefits of what free trade can and has delivered for us and are now deflected off that path.

Jeremy Mitchell is Director of Corporate and Public Affairs at Huawei Australia.

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