President Donald Trump has defended his offer, tweeted over the weekend, to help out Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE, which has been hit by a US trade embargo after it breached a settlement for illegally trading with Iran and North Korea.
The embargo stops US companies from trading with ZTE, a move that could force the company out of business as it relies heavily on US-sourced technology for its smartphone and communications hardware.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would help ZTE get back into business after his administration slapped the Chinese tech firm with a seven-year trading ban.
Ahead of trade talks with the Chinese government this week, he promised to look at ways the US can help preserve ZTE jobs and business regardless of the ban.
"Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," he wrote.
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
In a separate tweet published on Sunday, Trump said he would try to overcome past differences with China when he meets with President Xi Jinping.
"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 wrote.
However, the President's critics have accused him of taking a dramatic u-turn. In the past, he has slammed Chinese companies for taking American jobs.
But now he claims that ZTE's decision to close down global operations could affect the US jobs market. He wants to offer the firm some concessions.
On Monday, Trump defended his pledge in a tweet. He wrote: "ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from US companies."
ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
It continued: "This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi."
Speaking to Reuters, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the US Commerce Department could find alternative ways to punish the company for trading to Iran and North Korea.
"ZTE did do some inappropriate things. The question is are there alternative remedies to the ones we had originally put forward and that's the area we will be exploring very, very promptly," he said.
Last week, a ZTE executive claimed that the smartphone maker purchases 30 per cent of its components from US companies and that it handed $2.3 billion to US exporters in 2017.
As such, though, the US trade embargo against ZTE could close the company down within months.
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