COMMENT:

Today's GCSB decision to ban Spark from working with Chinese telco Huawei is a huge call that will further damage already strained relations with Beijing.

For this to have been announced to the world via Spark press release is also a very bad look.

The GCSB told Spark that using Huawei to build the national 5G mobile network represents a security risk.

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In making the call they have put New Zealand on the same side as the US and Australia in a global stoush with deep diplomatic implications - one that until now we have successfully sidestepped.

Perhaps it was an unavoidable decision as, amid rising geo-political tension - the US has upped the pressure on allies and partners to stop working with Huawei.

Nevertheless it will be noted as a highly symbolic move by the Chinese Government.

And it appears to have come as a complete bombshell for many in New Zealand's international trade and diplomatic community who were under the impression a decision was some way off.

A clearly disappointed Spark put out a release to say it was notified directly by the head of the GCSB, which put out its own release at the same time.

That raises questions about the extent to how well the Government has managed the diplomatic process.

Opaque comments by GCSB minister Andrew Little pointing to Huawei's "intervention in an unauthorised way" have come after the fact.

Was the Prime Minister really across this? Little says she was briefed

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But the PM has been at pains to avoid making a call on the domestic security issue surrounding academic Anne-Marie Brady, who alleges she has been harassed by Chinese interests.

That makes this much bigger diplomatic call all the more dramatic.

Were Chinese officials briefed in a manner that will allow them to save face?

These things matter to the political powers that control our largest export market.

Were New Zealand trade officials briefed? The chiefs at Fonterra and Zespri with billions of dollars in trade at stake?

New Zealand currently has negotiators in Beijing attempting to secure an upgrade to our China Free Trade Agreement.

Their prospects now look dim.

The news also comes just three days after the Prime Minister called off a visit to Beijing in December.

Is this related?

There are certainly a number of difficult issues at play now in this once "special" relationship.

There is a good case to made for New Zealand taking a stronger diplomatic stance on issues of political difference with China.

Australia has done so and trade carries on - as it will for New Zealand.

But unfortunately New Zealand has been forced to make a difficult and delicate call at a particularly difficult and delicate time.

It will surely have repercussions.