US President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to try and help ZTE Corp “get back into business”, after his administration earlier banned American firms from selling components to the Chinese telecom equipment maker.
In a Twitter message, Trump pointed out that ZTE is a big buyer of parts from American companies and also noted that Washington is working toward a large trade deal with China.
“ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies,” Trump wrote. “This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”
The comments came after the president faced a backlash from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers after he revealed over the weekend that he was working with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to find a way to help ZTE get back on its feet, Reuters reports.
Beijing is believed to be insisting that the ZTE issue needs to be resolved before any broader trade agreement with Washington.
The US Commerce Department last month banned American companies from selling components to ZTE for seven years, after the Chinese firm was found to have violated a settlement deal and illegally shipped goods made with US parts to Iran and North Korea.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday that his department is exploring options besides a supplier ban to punish ZTE.
“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,” Ross told journalists at the National Press Club in Washington, according to Reuters.
US companies are estimated to provide 25 percent to 30 percent of components used in ZTE’s smartphones, network gear and other products.
According to Reuters sources, China is willing in principle to import more US agriculture products in return for Washington smoothing out penalties against ZTE.
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