Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is considering banning China´s Huawei Technologies from supplying components to Brazil’s upcoming 5G network, according to a senior member of his cabinet.
The Brazilian cabinet member, quoted by Bloomberg, dismissed the possibility of Chinese retaliation, saying Beijing relies on Brazilian agricultural imports to feed its population.
The perception in Brazil is that other countries which have banned Huawei have not suffered major consequences, the person added, requesting anonymity to discuss internal matters.
While a decision hasn’t been made yet and will take into consideration the views of others in the cabinet, the remarks are evidence of Bolsonaro’s continued suspicion of Brazil’s largest trading partner.
Brazil plans to select those companies around next May after the health crisis delayed the process initially scheduled for this year, Communications Minister Fabio Faria recently said.
The Brazilian Government has said, officially, that the 5G decision is a matter of national security involving many stake holders, including the ministries of economy and foreign affairs.
China was the destination of 40% of Brazilian exports in the first half of the year, according to data from the agriculture ministry. Sales to the Asian country, mostly soybeans, generated more revenue than those to the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East combined.
Yet relations with Beijing have been tense since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, after heavily criticizing China during the campaign trail, as have his Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and the president’s own son, lower house lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, who blamed the pandemic on the “Chinese dictatorship.”
Other officials have expressed more pragmatic views on China. Vice-President Hamilton Mourao and Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes have advocated for an open and fair bidding process to pick the builders of Brazil’s 5G network.
After the US warned of “consequences” if the Chinese get to build an ultra-fast fifth-generation mobile network in Brazil, Chinese Ambassador to Brasilia, Yang Wanming, said that more than Huawei “winning a bid or not”, at stake is “whether a country can set up market rules based on openness, impartiality and non-discrimination for all companies.”