Monday, 20 August, 2018

Chinas ZTE signed preliminary agreement to lift US ban

The Trump administration is putting the finishing touches on a deal with ZTE. Bloomberg’s Jodi Schneider reports The Trump administration is putting the finishing touches on a deal with ZTE. Bloomberg’s Jodi Schneider reports
Orlando Vargas | 09 June, 2018, 19:18

Amidst the white-hot trade tension brewing between the worlds two most powerful superpowers, U.S. President Donald Trump surprisingly announced his intention to help the beleaguered Chinese company which we covered here last month. In a memo to staff, Chairman Yin Yimin said ZTE would look to get back into business as soon as possible, and hold those responsible for the breach accountable, a company source said.

"At about 6 a.m. this morning [June 7], we executed a definitive agreement with ZTE", US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told US business network CNBC. "This new settlement agreement sets another record, and brings the total penalties assessed on ZTE to $2.29 billion".

In addition to the fine, a compliance team chosen by the U.S. will be embedded at ZTE and the Chinese company must change its board and executive team. It would also allow unfettered site visits to verify that USA components are being used as claimed by the company, and post calculations of US parts in its products on a public website, they added. The company will also have to keep a team of "compliance coordinators" for the next 10 years, which will be selected by the DoC.

Some officials involved with the negotiations have said they were unrelated to the ongoing trade talks between the US and China, but others have suggested that ZTE was a bargaining chip for the USA and that China could make other concessions now that ZTE has won a reprieve. ZTE will also put $400 million in an escrow account.

But the deal came under fire from Senator Chuck Schumer, who accused President Trump of shooting "blanks" at China while aiming his trade fire at allies such as Europe and Canada. Today, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC that the U.S. struck a deal with ZTE to return it to business.

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"It's not only that ZTE was busted for evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and then lied about it; it's that ZTE is a state-controlled telecommunications company that poses significant espionage risks, which this agreement appears to do little to address". In its place, Commerce has levied $1.4 billion in fines and penalties, required the replacement of the company's senior management and board, and will install compliance officers inside the company.

He added the United States ban had caused "huge losses for the company" which had been forced to pay a "disastrous price".

ZTE's return to the US market is good news for several American companies. ZTE has been one of the most affected companies but is close to signing an agreement to continue its collaborations with US-based technology companies, such as Qualcomm. FBI Director Chris Wray said the proliferation of ZTE phones in the USA provides "the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information".

Critics like senator Marco Rubio have criticized the Trump administration's willingness to cut a deal with ZTE, saying it undercuts USA national security.

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