February 12, 2019 / 12:54 PM / a month ago

Pompeo calls for open, fair competition between firms

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The United States is fine with companies competing in global markets but it must be done in an open and transparent way, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday when questioned about the role of Chinese firms such as Huawei.

Pompeo is on a three-city visit to central Europe, part of what administration officials say is an effort to make up for a lack of U.S. engagement in the region that has opened the door to more Chinese and Russian influence.

In Budapest on Monday, Pompeo cautioned allies against deploying equipment from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them”.

The visit comes at a time that countries in the Europe Union are looking to build up future 5G mobile networks and some like Germany and Poland are weighing whether to let Chinese firms such as Huawei participate.

“We’re fine with companies competing but they’ve got to do it in a way that is fair, open and transparent... and they can’t do so with anything other than any economic motives,” Pompeo said at a news conference on Tuesday with Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak during a visit to Bratislava.

Pompeo said the American task was “if we’re concerned with that we will share information, we will provide resources and help others understand so they know what they are getting into, if there are security risks associated with the procurement of ... China’s goods.”

“We want to make sure our friends, our allies, our NATO partners, those that are inside the EU..., we want to make sure they are aware of those risks. That’s our task,” he said.

The United States and some of its Western allies say Huawei Technologies’ apparatus could be used for espionage. Huawei denies engaging in intelligence work for any government.

Slideshow (8 Images)

The chief executive of Huawei’s Hungarian unit, William Wu, said on Tuesday in response to Pompeo’s comments in Budapest that governments should look objectively at evidence and maintain an open approach to network development.

“We believe the solution to more secure networks lies in co-operation across the whole industry,” he said in a statement.

“Excluding one supplier from technological developments in cyber security will damage technical and economic progress and harm competition in the ICT market.”

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs in London; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith

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