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Huawei opens Brussels transparency centre as it seeks to win over Europe

Huawei has opened a Cyber Security Transparency Centre in Brussels in a bid to reassure European regulators and clients that its telecoms equipment can be trusted.

The centre provides a space for government agencies, technical experts, industry associations and clients to assess the Chinese tech giant’s security standards.

In recent months Huawei has faced mounting pressure from Western governments over its alleged links to Chinese authorities.

The fears centre on Chinese legislation that compels domestic companies to assist with surveillance investigations. Huawei’s CEO has claimed he would refuse to comply with such demands, but it is not clear if there is a legal framework in which he could do so.

Speaking at the launch of the Brussels centre on Tuesday, Ken Hu – Huawei’s deputy chairman – said: “Trust needs to be based on facts, facts must be verifiable, and verification must be based on common standards. We believe that this is an effective model to build trust for the digital era.”

The centre has three aims: demonstrating Huawei’s cyber security practices, providing a space for the company to meet with industry partners to explore security standards, and offering a product security testing and verification platform.

“I believe that good solutions to solve the issue start from mutual understanding, which is the purpose we set up the transparency centre here today,” added Hu. “We welcome all regulators, standards organizations, and customers to fully use this platform to collaborate more closely on security standards, verification mechanisms, and security technology innovation. Together, we can improve security across the entire value chain and help build trust through verification.”

In December, the firm unveiled plans to invest $2bn (£1.5bn) in cyber security following criticism from the National Cyber Security Centre over the quality of its code. But speaking to reporters at Mobile World Congress last month, the company’s European chief warned that the initiative could end up costing significantly more money.

As NS Tech reported earlier this year, Eric Xu – one of Huawei’s three rotating chairmen – is undertaking a review of the required work that could conclude as soon as this month.

In February, Donald Trump posted a tweet which marked a softening of his stance on Huawei. “I want the United States to win [in 5G] through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies,” he wrote.

Few had anticipated such an intervention. The Trump administration has ratcheted up its rhetoric against Huawei in recent weeks and had been expected to issue an executive order restricting the use of the company’s kit in the US ahead of Mobile World Congress.

However Trump’s latest gambit, which has been seen as a ploy to break the trade impasse with China, won’t entirely reassure Huawei. Just hours before, Mike Pompeo – Trump’s secretary of state – took to Fox News to warn that the US will sever ties with allies if they carry on using the firm’s telecoms equipment.