The EU's top trade investigator is going to try to get permission to probe Chinese telcos Huawei and ZTE, despite the fact that European firms like Ericsson refuse to complain about them.
The European Commission, like US government officials, have been looking into Huawei and ZTE over alleged state subsidies that let them undercut their rivals in the West.
But investigations are usually only triggered when a company lodges a complaint with EU trade officials. European telecoms equipment manufacturers like Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent are refusing to moan about the Chinese telcos because they're afraid of getting shut out of China's growing telecoms market in retaliation, familiar people hinted to Reuters.
Trade commissioner Karel De Gucht can only start an investigation if he can persuade EU trade ministers to back it, which he'll attempt to do at a meeting in Dublin this week, diplomats said.
The trade commission said last year that it had hard evidence that Huawei and ZTE got state subsidies to help them undercut other firms and sold their gear in Europe below cost, a process known as "dumping".
Despite actively gathering evidence over the last couple of years, the commission has never before launched an official investigation without a formal complaint. If De Gucht can get EU backing, this case will be the first.
A number of countries, including the US and Australia, are concerned about letting Chinese telcos install their networks, citing security concerns about how much the government at home is involved with the firms.
Huawei and ZTE have both strenuously denied that there's any security risks with having Chinese-made equipment outside the country, with the latter pointing out to the US government that even Western firms' gear is usually made in China anyway. ®