President Donald Trump pledged on Sunday to help ZTE Corp “get back into business, fast” after a U.S. ban crippled the Chinese technology company, offering a job-saving concession to Beijing ahead of high-stakes trade talks this week, Reuters informed.
Trump’s unexpected announcement was a stunning reversal, given Washington’s tough stance on Chinese trade practices that have put the world’s two largest economies on course for a possible trade war.
According to sources briefed on the matter, Beijing had demanded the ZTE issue be resolved as a prerequisite for broader trade negotiations.
“Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” Trump wrote on Twitter, saying he and Chinese President Xi Jinping were working together on a solution for ZTE.
The U.S. Commerce Department last month banned American companies from selling to the firm for seven years as punishment for ZTE breaking a 2017 agreement after it was caught illegally shipping U.S. goods to Iran and North Korea, an investigation dating to the Obama administration, Reuters added.
The penalty cut off ZTE’s access to key components such as semiconductors, prompting China’s second-largest maker of telecommunications equipment to say last week that it had suspended its main operations.
During trade talks in Beijing earlier this month, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that China would not continue talks on broader bilateral trade disputes unless Washington agreed to ease the crushing sanctions on ZTE, two people briefed on those meetings said.