WASHINGTON (AP) — IN A surprising overture to China, President Donald Trump says he would help a Chinese telecommunications company get “back into business,” saying too many jobs in China are at stake after the U.S. government cut off access to its American suppliers.
At issue is the Commerce Department’s move last month to block the ZTE Corp., a major supplier of telecoms networks and smartphones based in southern China, from importing American components for seven years. The U.S. accused ZTE of misleading American regulators after it settled charges of violating sanctions against North Korea and Iran.
The case dates to before Trump took office in January 2007 but the Commerce Department’s decision came amid worsening trade tensions between the U.S. and China centered on technology-related intellectual property.
Trump’s unexpected announcement Sunday came as the two countries prepared to continue trade talks in Washington this week. Given his past vows to stop the flow of U.S. jobs to China and crack down on what he says are unfair trade practices, Trump’s tweet of concern about Chinese jobs was something of a backflip.
“A reversal of the ZTE decision could temporarily tamp down trade tensions by allowing the Chinese to make concessions to the U.S. without losing face,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “Trump may have recognized that backing off on ZTE clears the path for him to claim at least a partial victory in the US-China trade dispute based on the concessions the Chinese seem prepared to offer.”