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China and Canada governments commit to ending economic cyber espionage

The governments of China and Canada have signed a deal promising not to target each other with particular types of cyber attacks.

The two countries have vowed to no longer commit state-sponsored cyber attacks aimed at extracting trade secrets or confidential business information, aka economic cyber espionage. This may include hacking to retrieve the secrets behind strategically important proprietary technologies, such as drone technology.

The agreement does not include state-sponsored cyber espionage for the purposes of intelligence gathering.

The deal was reached as the results of “candid” talks between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser, Daniel Jean, and senior communist party official Wang Yongqing, the Canadian government confirmed.

Some countries - including the US - have accused the Chinese government of having sponsored cyber attacks on foreign companies in order to acquire “sensitive” foreign technologies. Beijing has denied these accusations repeatedly.

The current Canadian government has said, however, that it intends to boost trade with China, in part to reduce dependence on exports to the US. In order to tighten their trade relationship, Beijing has been pushing Canada to reduce national security-related restrictions on the goods that China and other nations can buy.

Trudeau’s government framed the agreement as a step towards dealing with Chinese espionage: “This is something that three or four years ago [Beijing] would not even have entertained in the conversation,” an official said.

The Conservative party of Canada has said that the agreement should be scrutinised more thoroughly and Andrew Scheer, the leader of the opposition, described the deal as an example of the ruling Liberal party “[appeasing] the Chinese government.”

The US and China agreed to a similar deal in 2015, which promised an end to corporate cyber espionage between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Beijing implemented a strict new cyber security policy, which requires security checks for companies intending to store data within the country. Critics have argued that the law could hinder the trade and the flow of data across Chinese borders.

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