By Sascha Matuszak
In an unexpected twist, U.S. President Trump indicated via Twitter on Sunday that the enforcement actions against Chinese telecom company ZTE could be revisited. The tweet caught Commerce and Treasury officials off guard, as ZTE was hit in 2017 with fines of $1.9 billion and, this past March, a denial order was put in place, prohibiting U.S. companies from supplying ZTE with components for its microchips and cell phones. ZTE was found to have done business with both North Korea and Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions. Following the enforcement actions, ZTE released a letter to investors stating that “major operating activities of the Company have ceased.” The letter went on to say that ZTE was reaching out to the U.S. government in order to ease or perhaps reverse the enforcement action:
“The Company and related parties are actively communicating with the relevant U.S. government departments in order to facilitate the modification or reversal of the Denial Order by the U.S. government and forge a positive outcome in the development of the matters.”
Those related parties seem to go as high as Chinese President Xi Jinping himself. Following discussions with President Xi, Trump tweeted that they were working to get ZTE back into 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. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018