By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. companies should avoid doing business with China's Huawei, the world's No. 2 maker of telecommunications gear, for fear its equipment could open doors for spying, the head of the U.S. House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee said.
"If I were an American company today ... and you are looking at Huawei, I would find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property; if you care about your consumers' privacy and you care about the national security of the United States of America," Chairman Mike Rogers said.
The Michigan Republican, a former FBI special agent, made his comments to the CBS television program 60 Minutes to be broadcast on Sunday. Excerpts provided by the program Friday did not spell out any evidence to back up Rogers' concerns.
On Monday, the Intelligence panel will release the findings of a nearly year-long investigation of the alleged security risk, both from Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and China's ZTE Corp.
ZTE is also a Shenzhen, China-based telecommunications gear maker, the world's fifth-ranking. The excerpts released by 60 Minutes did not include specific references to ZTE. It was not immediately clear whether Rogers and the committee were blackballing ZTE as well.
"One of the main reasons we are having this investigation is to educate the citizens in business ... in the telecommunications world," Representative C.A. Ruppersberger of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat, told the program.
The committee believes allowing Huawei to build and maintain large swaths of America's telecommunications infrastructure opens a door for the Chinese government to spy on the U.S. government and engage in industrial espionage, 60 Minutes said.
Huawei said in response that it was "globally trusted and respected," doing business in almost 150 markets with more than 500 operator customers, including nationwide carriers across every continent except Antarctica.
"The security and integrity of our products are world proven," William Plummer, a company spokesman in Washington, said in an email. "Those are the facts today. Those will be the facts next week, political agendas aside."
The efforts of Huawei and ZTE in the United States have been stymied by U.S. concerns over allegedly mounting Chinese economic espionage, especially in cyberspace.
Huawei has marketed its network equipment in the United States since last year and has sold to a range of small- to medium-sized carriers nationwide, particularly in rural areas. It has marketed mobile phones through a broader range of U.S. carriers, for the last four years.
Both Huawei and ZTE have rejected charges that their expansion in the United States poses a security risk and argue they operate independently of the Chinese authorities.
(Editing by Andre Grenon)