US reportedly working with China on a deal to 'save' ZTE from going out of business
25 May, 2018, 21:42
According to sources familiar with the discussions, a proposed trade deal with China would lift a seven-year ban that prevents USA chipmakers and other companies from selling components to ZTE, which makes smartphones and telecommunications networking gear.
The Commerce Department slapped sanctions on ZTE after determining the company sold goods containing U.S. parts into Iran and North Korea, a violation of USA sanctions against those two countries.
The ban has threatened the viability of ZTE by cutting off access to companies that supply 25 percent to 30 percent of its components. That could have had a major impact on the USA wireless market, considering companies like Qualcomm derive significant revenues from sales of chipsets and other components to ZTE, and carriers like AT&T sell the company's phones in the prepaid market.
Chinese officials had viewed the US punishment as an attack exposing their country's dependence on imports of key technologies.
On Saturday China was quick to deny claims that it had agreed to reduce the trade deficit between the sides by "at least" US$200 billion, saying that it had agreed to "substantially reduce" America's trade deficit rather than discussing a specific figure.
The US and China have been locked in a minor trade war lately.
"The release of hostage ZTE will be the start of China and the U.S.to implement their trade agreements", Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Chinese state-backed Global Times tabloid, said on his Twitter account after news of the deal.
The Shenzhen, China-based company depends on USA components, such as chips from Qualcomm Inc., to build its smartphones and networking gear.
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Mr. Trump this month ordered a review of the ZTE ban in response to a personal request by Mr. Xi, who said the ban was risking 70,000 jobs. Details are still being finalised but it sounds like there will still be some punitive measures such as enforced board and senior management changes, along with the prospect of major fines. And they buy them from American companies.
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Rossannounced he initiated a so-called Section 232 investigation on auto trade - which would provide the legal basis to impose tariffs, if his department finds imports threaten U.S. national security - after speaking with Donald Trump on the matter.
China responded with its own measures targeting U.S. agriculture.
Import tariffs for auto parts would be cut to 6 percent from mostly around 10 percent, the ministry said in a statement.
But U.S. President Donald Trump indicated on Wednesday that negotiations were still short of his objectives when he said any deal would need a "different structure".
However, he said there was no trade deal yet reached. The Chinese market is important for both of them - GM sells more cars in China than it does in the U.S. But because most of those cars are built and sold in China, the sales are not subject to the tariffs.
Cementing China's role as the leading country for auto assembly will help Beijing move the economy toward more sophisticated industries that can provide well-paid jobs for an increasingly well-educated population.
But China, which is anxious about the health of its financial sector, started to discuss its intentions past year, before the tensions heated up this spring.
A cell phone manufactured by ZTE, China's number-two smartphone maker, is seen on a store shelf.
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