Trump says 'there is no deal' with China to suspend ZTE penalties

U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday

ZTE has been a key factor in negotiations, as the ban exposed China's heavy reliance on crucial tech imports from the US.

The outlines of the deal for ZTE, first reported in The Wall Street Journal, amounted to exactly the same sort of punishment that had proved ineffective a year ago, Mr Rubio said.

Saying that ZTE had "repeatedly violated our laws" and posed "a serious and grave threat to our national security", the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday approved an amendment that would prevent Trump from easing any punitive measures without first certifying to Congress that ZTE was complying with United States law. "Both parties have come together today to strongly rebuke ZTE and the administration's soft approach". The bill is expected to come to a vote this summer.

US President Donald Trump has said he may lift a crippling export ban on Chinese technology firm ZTE and levy a $1.3bn fine instead.

It came as President Trump, who has described China's auto tariffs as "stupid trade", faced a growing revolt over plans to lift sanctions on ZTE, a struggling Chinese telecoms company for which he has pledged to find "a way to get back into business, fast".

China a year ago said it intends to ease restrictions on foreign ownership of financial companies.

Trump did not say whether a deal had been struck with China.

Bottom line: The situation remains fluid but the president has paid a political cost for his willingness to spare ZTE.

The United States last month blocked ZTE from buying parts from American companies for seven years. ZTE relies on U.S. tech for its products, sourcing chips from companies including Qualcomm (QCOM) and Intel (INTC). The ban brought ZTE's factories to a standstill.

Trump said May 13 on Twitter that he would seek to get ZTE back into business after discussing the issue with Xi.

"The president will not back down until we see meaningful and lasting change", the White House added.

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It's hard to imagine them blocking Trump from climbing down from an economy-battering trade standoff, particularly knowing how angry China will be if ZTE goes bankrupt due to Commerce's penalties.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appeared before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday during which he pledged that any changes to penalties on the Chinese telecom ZTE, which is publicly traded but whose largest shareholder is an enterprise owned by the state, would not affect American national security.

"I think that President Xi is a world class poker player", he said.

In April, the Trump administration banned USA firms from selling telecommunications equipment to China's state-owned ZTE over suspicions that it might have supplied equipment to Iran and North Korea.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week the administration is exploring "additional remedies" to its harsh punishment of the Chinese smartphone maker.

Some in the USA government and business community have said they opposed what they saw as a clear-cut legal case against ZTE being used as a bargaining chip in the broader trade conflict.

He declined to comment on what alternative remedies Commerce may be considering.

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.

"The president and Secretary Mnuchin, what they are doing sends a unsafe signal to businesses around the world that the United States is willing to forgive sanction violations or reduce penalties", Schumer said.

The US initially fined ZTE $1.19 million in March 2017 for violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Some quiet negotiating might see the U.S. totally lift the ban on selling components and parts to ZTE in exchange for China agreeing to buy more American farm goods and adjusting some of their current tariffs.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Senator Charles Schumer.

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