U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to help a Chinese technology giant that says it's being pushed out of business by U.S. penalties over its alleged violations of sanctions against Iran.
In a move that helped spur a rally in global stock markets on May 14, Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are "working together" to give telecom giant ZTE "a way to get back in business, fast," saying too many jobs in China were at stake after the U.S. government cut off access to its U.S. suppliers.
"ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies," Trump tweeted. "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!"
Trump's about-face on the stiff sanctions imposed against ZTE comes as the United States is imposing sanctions increasingly on global firms like ZTE and Russia's Rusal, the world's second-largest aluminum manufacturer, which is also struggling to stay in business in the wake of U.S. sanctions.
As a result of Trump's recent decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. sanctions are also possible eventually against such other European and Asian giants as Airbus, Renault, Total, and Siemens if they continue to do business with Iran.
The U.S. Commerce Department last month cited alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran in blocking ZTE from importing American-made components for its phones and other equipment for seven years.
The department imposed the penalty on Shenzhen-based ZTE after finding that the company, which had already paid a $1.2 billion fine, not only failed to discipline employees that were involved in the sanctions violations but paid them bonuses.
ZTE, a company with more than 70,000 employees that has supplied some of the world's biggest telecom companies, said earlier this month that as a result of the U.S. action, it had halted its main operations and the U.S. ban was threatening to push it out of business.
Under orders from Trump on May 14, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he was looking into whether there are "alternative remedies" to the crippling ban he originally imposed on ZTE.
While China said it was pleased with the U.S. reversal, which came on the eve of a visit to Washington by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He to discuss trade issues, some prominent members of Congress were not pleased.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of "backing off" and "doing a 180 on China."
"What about jobs in America, Mr. President? What about the millions of jobs that are lost because of what China has done?" he asked, adding: "Why on Earth would President Trump promise to help a Chinese telecom company that has flouted U.S. sanctions and whose practices are a risk to our national security?"
Republican Senator Marco Rubio also said it would be "crazy" to allow ZTE to operate in the United States without tighter restrictions.
"Problem with ZTE isn't jobs & trade, it's national security & espionage," he wrote on Twitter.