Trump announced early Sunday that he is working with China’s President Xi to find ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast.” He said that “Too many jobs in China [have been] lost.”
Since ZTE was recently hit with a seven-year ban from buying U.S. phone components, Trump’s comments have led people to believe that the ban would be lifted or modified.
Sen. Chuck Schumer had a great question for Trump in response.
“How about helping some American companies first?”
According to The Hill, Schumer had praised Trump before for the way he was handling trade issues, saying he was “on the right path.” But now, it appears that Schumer is wary of the ban reversal. After all, Trump’s mantra is “Make America Great Again.”
Rep. Adam Schiff from California echoed Schumer, saying to Trump, “you should care more about our national security than Chinese jobs.” Schiff is referring to the threat that ZTE technology poses on the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal.
Most of the speculation surrounding Trump’s change of heart on the ZTE ban surrounds the possibility that the ban and concessions are being used as a leveraging tool in the current trade talks with China. Trade lawyer Claire Reade believes that the ban was a “shocking blow to China’s leadership.” The ban effectively brought ZTE close to shutting down, which would have impacted the Chinese economy dramatically.
Others admit that it was a move that came out of left field. Washington lawyer Douglas Jacobson said, “this is a fascinating development in a highly unusual case that has gone from a sanctions and export control case to a geopolitical one.”
For now, the public does not know what type of advantage the U.S. may have gained in agreeing to allow ZTE to get back in business. If what Reade suggests is true, then imposing the ban could be a negotiation tactic that could later help the U.S. economy. Until more information is released, however, people are left wondering why Trump should care about Chinese jobs over American jobs, and a Chinese company over American national security.
The previous ban on ZTE from purchasing phone components from American companies nearly crippled the telecommunication giant. The ban was put in place in mid-April as a punitive measure for the company violating a settlement. Previously, ZTE was found guilty of evading sanctions by shipping U.S. phone parts to Iran.
Further negotiations and talks between the U.S. and ZTE have been handed off to the Commerce Department. Specifically, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is charged with making decisions independently of Trump. The Commerce Department was the one that imposed the seven-year ban to begin with.
If not for the announcement, ZTE was on a steady decline. Last week, it had “ceased major business operations,” affecting about 75,000 employees. For a company that sold around 19 million phones to U.S. consumers in 2017, this was huge news. And although ZTE is a Chinese company, Americans are the largest portion of their consumer base.