Huawei to grow Canadian R&D budget, staff as part of five year plan: president

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Huawei Canada will be getting a piece of the US$2 billion that its global Chinese parent will spend over five years to hire more software engineers to make its equipment more secure, resilient and efficient, the company said Thursday.

A company spokesman in Ottawa said Huawei's head office hasn't decided how much additional money and people will be allocated to its Canadian operation, which employs about 500 people at its research and development facilities.

But Huawei Canada president Eric Li, who is attending corporate meetings in Shenzen, said in a statement that its "top priority" has been the security and integrity of the networks that it supports through its technology.

"Huawei has been supplying telecommunications equipment in Canada for a decade," Li said.

"We have a 10-year record of success when it comes to cybersecurity. To make our equipment even more secure, Huawei is investing a further $2 billion over five years to enhance the way we design and build our products."

Huawei will also work with an independent third-party organization to monitor and assess its progress, he said.

Huawei Canada spokesman Jake Enwright said more details will be released when they're available.

Li's announcement comes as Huawei Technologies Ltd. faces intense pressure as the United States and some of Canada's other allies move to shut the China-based company out of their networks on national security grounds.

The Canadian government is also investigating the national security implications of having advanced fifth-generation wireless networks use equipment by a China-based company that's legally subject to Beijing's government.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei told reporters earlier this week in a rare media briefing that the private company would "definitely say no" if the Chinese government requested its help to facilitate spying, as required by a 2017 law.

Ren also said his daughter Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, has been well-treated by Canadian justice officials since her arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's government has demanded Meng's release, with its ambassador to Ottawa saying her arrest was an act of "backstabbing" by a friend.

Ambassador Lu Shaye also warned in a rare interview with Canadian journalists that if Huawei is barred from new 5G networks for security reasons that there could be "repercussions."

While Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is leading the Trudeau government's diplomacy with China, the decision on whether to bar Huawei from Canadian networks is under the jurisdiction of Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale and Navdeep Bains, the minister responsible for telecommunications.

Bains said in an interview with The Canadian Press this week that "we never have and never will compromise our national security."

He added that the national security review is a "broader review" than just Huawei and than the government will take the necessary time to "get all the relevant information, that we co-ordinate with our international partners and ultimately make a decision that is in the best interests of Canadians."

For its part, Huawei has taken several steps to burnish its public image in Canada and around the world – including repeated assurances that it wouldn't betray customers and that it's a good corporate citizen.

Earlier this week, Huawei released an upbeat 65-second video via Twitter that focuses on half a dozen members of its Canadian R&D team in Ottawa.

“We're working on cutting edge technology. It's a rare opportunity for any researcher. I'm glad I've been given that opportunity,” says research engineer Elmira Amirloo.

Other employees in the video add that Huawei is open, innovative and invests in its employees.

The company has also been raising its profile with Canadian consumers through increased advertising of its smartphones and sponsorship of Hockey Night In Canada through a multi-year deal that runs through 2020.