China protests likely exclusion from Czech nuclear plant tender

PRAGUE, Jan 28 (Reuters) - China protested on Thursday against an agreement among Czech political party leaders not to allow Chinese firms to take part in a tender to build a new nuclear power plant on national security grounds, the Chinese embassy in Prague said.

Czech leaders agreed in principle on Wednesday that China should not be asked to bid to build around 1,200 MW nuclear power station, heeding demands from the security services that the country may become exposed to pressure from countries that are home to the chosen supplier.

“The Chinese side is firmly against generalising of the concept of national security by the Czech side, which would create an artificial obstacle to entry of Chinese companies to the Czech market,” the embassy said on its website, expressing “serious concern” over the potential exclusion.

“The Chinese side is urgently appealing to the Czech side to thoroughly apply principles of market economy and fair competition.”

China General Nuclear Power (CGN) is among five potential bidders alongside French, Korean, U.S. and Russian firms to build the plant, the country’s biggest investment in decades worth billions of dollars.

While agreeing in principle on China, the Czech government has kept Russia in play, at least for the time being, despite the same objections to its participation by the NATO and EU country’s security establishment.

The government has not finalised conditions for the tender that is to be opened by majority state-owned utility CEZ .

Czech President Milos Zeman has been keen on building warm relations with China, but a number of mooted projects never came to fruition while others were tainted by the failure of Chinese investment firm CEFC, which was the main Chinese acquirer of Czech assets, in 2018.

The country also angered China in 2018 when its cyber security watchdog issued a warning against using equipment made by Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE in critical infrastructure, and by a visit of Czech upper house of parliament chairman to Taiwan last year. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka Editing by Alistair Bell)