ZTE, the sanctions-busting Chinese smartphone and telecoms equipment maker, has been extended a surprise lifeline by US President Donald Trump.
The offer of help comes after ZTE was subjected to a US trade embargo that bars US companies from doing business with the company, with immediate effect. That had followed claims that ZTE had ignored certain terms of a settlement with the US Department of Commerce over its sanctions-busting activities.
But in a surprise tweet posted on Sunday, Trump promised to help ZTE "get back into business, fast" after his administration slapped it with a seven-year trade ban that prevents US companies from supplying key components and services to the company. It has been forced to close production lines as supplies dry up.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
To coincide with high-level trade talks with the Chinese government this week, the President pledged to provide job-saving concessions for the tech firm.
Despite having previously blamed China for taking American jobs, and enjoying the best of bilateral trade agreements in the past, Trump tweeted: "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!"
The President confirmed that he will hold discussions with his Chinese counterpart to explore ways that ZTE jobs can be preserved.
"President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," added Trump's tweet.
Last week, ZTE announced it would be shutting down global operations after the US Commerce Department issued the ban, which could even prevent Google from licensing Android apps to the company. That would bork the company's smartphone business worldwide.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
Under the ruling, companies are barred from selling equipment and services to ZTE for seven years. That came after ZTE was found to have breached an earlier settlement over the sale of technology to Iran and North Korea in contravention of United Nations-led sanctions.
That settlement had included the possibility of a seven-year trade ban should ZTE fail to keep its side of the agreement.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Reuters that the tweet showed the importance of "free, fair, balanced and mutually beneficial" relations between the US and China.
Trump is calling on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross "to exercise his independent judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts," added Walters.
Tweeting for a second time on Sunday, Trump said he would attempt to overcome past challenges experienced in talks with the Chinese.
"China and the United States are working well together on trade, but past negotiations have been so one-sided in favour 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!" he said.
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