(This Feb. 24 story corrects paragraph 12 to show Huawei was world’s third-largest smartphone vendor last year, not second largest)
By Paul Sandle, Jack Stubbs and Douglas Busvine
BARCELONA (Reuters) - China’s Huawei welcomed comments from President Donald Trump about the future of U.S. mobile communications on Sunday and asserted its position as a world-leading smartphone producer as Washington and Beijing seek a trade war ceasefire.
U.S. and Chinese negotiators are set to meet for a sixth straight day of negotiations on Sunday as they work to strike a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline on a trade dispute which has disrupted global commerce and slowed the world economy.
At the center of the imbroglio is Huawei Technologies, accused by Washington of sanctions busting, intellectual property theft and facilitating Chinese state espionage operations.
Speaking ahead of the mobile industry’s biggest global event which begins in Barcelona on Monday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping reiterated his company’s position that it has never and would never allow any country to spy through its equipment.
Guo, who holds Huawei’s rotating chairmanship, said Trump’s recent assertion that the United States needed to get ahead in mobile communications through competition rather than seeking to block technology was “clear and correct”.
Trump’s tweets on Thursday did not specifically mention Huawei, the world’s largest producer of mobile network equipment, but appeared to soften earlier U.S. statements that it should be barred from Western networks on security grounds.
“I have noticed the president’s Twitter, he said that the U.S. needs faster and smarter 5G, or even 6G in the future, and he has realized that the U.S. is lagging behind in this respect, and I think his message is clear and correct,” Guo said, speaking through an interpreter.
He said the United States did not represent the whole world and called for equipment makers, network operators and governments to work together to devise trustworthy standards to manage cyber security risks.
“We need to have unified standard that should be verifiable. It should not be based on politics,” Guo said.
Huawei also sought to reaffirm its position as one of the world’s leading technology companies, unveiling a folding 5G smartphone to an audience of media and analysts in Barcelona.
Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor after Samsung and Apple, said it had taken the lead in developing phones for 5G - which promises super-fast internet speeds - because it was also involved in developing the networks.
The new Huawei Mate X will have two back-to-back screens which unfold to become an eight-inch tablet display, and goes on sale later this year priced at 2,299 euros ($2,607), setting a new upper limit for consumer smartphones.
Samsung had unveiled its own folding smartphone last week, priced at nearly $2,000, as part of a bid to top the technology of Chinese rivals and Apple Inc.
Thomas Husson, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said the Mate X showed Huawei was an innovative technology company and no longer trailing American and Korean competitors.
“The fact that Huawei is not just a network equipment provider but also a smartphone manufacturer ... gives them a competitive advantage for 5G. It is also a double-edge sword as some argue the security risks are higher,” Husson said.
China’s Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker, also unveiled a 5G handset on Sunday, but without the folding screen or high price tags touted by the Huawei and Samsung devices. Xiaomi’s offering will start at 599 euros ($679) when it hits the market in May.
Reporting by Paul Sandle, Jack Stubbs and Douglas Busvine; Additional reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by David Holmes