Trump Denies Reaching Deal With China on ZTE

The fate of the telecom firm ZTE has become a sticking point in talks with China, with lawmakers and others worried that the Trump administration will ease restrictions on the company.
EPA, via Shutterstock

President Trump declared on Tuesday that he was not happy with how recent trade talks with China had gone, and said the United States had not reached a deal to suspend penalties on the Chinese telecom firm ZTE, disputing reports that the administration had decided to go easy on the company in return for trade concessions.

“There is no deal. We will see what happens,” Mr. Trump said in response to reporters’ questions about ZTE during a meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Mr. Trump, when asked if he was happy with how recent trade meetings with China went, responded: “No, not really. I think that they’re a start.”

“China has made a fortune,” Mr. Trump said, just hours after his closest advisers had last gone on television to promote the success of the recent trade talks. “I’m not satisfied, but we have a long way to go,” he said.

It was the latest turn in a bewildering negotiating process that has sent the president vacillating between taking a tough stance on China and saying he would try to help the country recover lost jobs. There has been no greater source of confusion than the future of ZTE. The company’s fate hangs in the balance as long as penalties levied by the Trump administration prevent it from buying much-needed American components for its phones.

ZTE’s fate has quickly become a sticking point in negotiations with China. Lawmakers and national security officials have been concerned that the administration would ease restrictions on the company after Mr. Trump’s suggestion in a Twitter message on May 13 that he was working with China’s president, Xi Jinping, to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast.” Recent reports from people familiar with the trade negotiations also indicated that an informal pact of some sort had been struck.

Although he denied that a deal had been reached, Mr. Trump still left the door open for a potential future agreement on ZTE, saying on Tuesday that he envisioned an outcome in which the company would be able to buy American products again in return for a fine of more than a billion dollars, strict security rules and replacing its board.

“As a favor to the president, I am absolutely taking a look at it,” Mr. Trump said, referring to Mr. Xi.

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SOURCE: New York Times, Ana Swanson and Jim Tankersley