March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Cybersecurity should be made the top issue in any U.S. trade discussions with China as a way to pressure the government in Beijing to halt rampant computer espionage, U.S. House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said.
Rogers, a Michigan Republican, has accused China of widespread digital spying aimed at stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies.
“We have to deal with it now or we’re going to have a horrible problem,” Rogers said yesterday in an interview with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.” “If they want to be great international players in the international global economic market, you can’t act like a thief.”
Security firm Mandiant Corp. said in a Feb. 19 report that the Chinese army may be behind a hacking group that has attacked at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006.
U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel and other Obama administration officials said last week they will put diplomatic pressure on countries implicated in the theft of trade secrets.
Rogers said conversations with the White House over a cybersecurity bill he reintroduced this month are “going in the right direction.”
The proposed legislation from Rogers and the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, would give legal protection to companies that share cyber threat information with each other and the government.
Discussions with the White House have focused on ways to minimize the personal information that is shared and determine whether the Homeland Security Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation or National Security Agency should oversee information sharing, Rogers said.
Rogers said he expects a bill will pass the House in April. White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on the discussions.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order Feb. 12 directing the government to share more cyber-threat data with the private sector and develop voluntary cyber standards for critical U.S. infrastructure such as power grids. The order instructs federal agencies to look at incorporating the standards into their existing regulations.
The administration threatened to veto a version of the Rogers bill last year, saying the measure didn’t go far enough to boost computer defenses and failed to protect the privacy of consumer information. It hasn’t commented on the newly reintroduced bill, while saying it will soon submit its cybersecurity legislative priorities to Congress.
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