Ahead of a second round of trade talks between the U.S. and China this week, President Donald Trump has indicated he will help Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. get “back into business.”
Trump said in a post on Twitter on Sunday that he is working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to assist ZTE, which has been crippled by a ban on U.S. supplies to its business.
“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump tweeted. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”
Sources briefed on the matter told Reuters that China has demanded the ZTE issue be resolved as a prerequisite for broader trade negotiations.
Last week, ZTE said its major operating activities have ceased as a result of the denial of export privileges imposed by the Commerce Department.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the denial order last month, claiming ZTE made false statements about employee disciplinary actions related to the illegal shipping of telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea.
The Commerce Department said the false statements covered up the fact that ZTE paid full bonuses to employees that had engaged in illegal conduct and failed to issue letters of reprimand.
“ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored,” Ross said at the time.
In a press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China “greatly appreciates” Trump’s new position on the ZTE issue.
Meanwhile, Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, criticized Trump’s decision.
“Our intelligence agencies have warned that ZTE technology and phones pose a major cyber security threat,” Schiff tweeted. “You should care more about our national security than Chinese jobs.”
The tweet from Trump comes as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is due to travel to Washington this week to meet with the president’s economic team.
Trump expressed optimism about trade talks with China in a subsequent tweet despite claiming past negotiations have been one-sided in favor of Beijing.
“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,” Trump tweeted. “But be cool, it will all work out!”
A U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin traveled to Beijing earlier this month for trade talks with Chinese officials.
A report from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said the talks resulted in agreements on some issues but noted considerable differences still exist.
Xinhua said both sides recognized the remaining differences and said continued hard work is required for more progress.
The talks included discussions of issues such as increasing U.S. exports to China, bilateral service trade, two-way investment, protection of intellectual property rights, and resolving tariff and non-tariff issues.
Xinhua said the two sides agreed to stay in close communication on relevant issues and establish a corresponding work mechanism.
(Photo: Gage Skidmore)