In an apparent reversal of U.S. trade policy, President Donald Trump said in a tweet Sunday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are in discussions to give Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp "a way to get back into business, fast."
"President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
The statement is in sharp contrast to the President’s earlier claims that China’s fast-growing technology companies were posing a threat to both U.S. jobs and security, sparking threats of a U.S.-China trade war.
Trump followed up with another tweet urging patience from his U.S. audience, writing "China and the United States are working well together on trade, but past negotiations have been so one sided in favor of China, for so many years, that it is hard for them to make a deal that benefits both countries. But be cool, it will all work out!"
On April 16, the US Department of Commerce announced a 7-year ban on U.S. companies selling equipment to ZTE due to its violation of U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. The U.S. said ZTE made false statements to BIS in 2016, during settlement negotiations, and 2017, during the probationary period, related to senior employee disciplinary actions the company said it was taking or had already taken.
With U.S. companies supplying around 25% of components used by ZTE, the ban has impacted the company’s operations and threatened its survival.
"The refusal order will not only endanger ZTE’s survival, but will also hurt the interests of all ZTE’s partners including a large number of US companies," ZTE argued.
In March 2017, ZTE agreed to pay US$892 million in fines and plead guilty to violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and obstructing justice, ending a five-year probe that erased about two years of the company’s profits. ZTE also plead guilty to accusations of making illegal shipments to North Korea.