Tuesday 17 September 2019

Relief in China after Trump reverses tack on ZTE ban

US president Donald Trump
US president Donald Trump

Sijia Jiang and Donal O'Donovan

Employees of ZTE, China's second-biggest telecoms equipment maker, reportedly cheered a tweet by US President Donald Trump that suggested a resolution is in sight to reverse a devastating US ban on sales to the Chinese company.

In an unexpected reversal of a hardline US stance, President Trump tweeted on Sunday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping were working together to give ZTE "a way to get back into business, fast", and cited the risk of the loss of many jobs in China.

ZTE had been hit by Washington, which forbade US firms supplying the Chinese company with components and technology after it was found to have illegally shipped goods to Iran.

In the wake of that, ZTE said that it has suspended its main business operations.

The Chinese firm doesn't sell its branded handsets into Ireland. However, it is a supplier to Irish-owned Digicel, Denis O'Brien's mobile telecoms and communications group.

That company said last week that it was working with ZTE on an audit to assess any impact on Digicel from the US action.

But on Sunday, Donald Trump's tweet - indicating a rapid US reversal - was widely reposted on social media by ZTE employees.

"Wow! Breaking good news!" a ZTE manager wrote on her WeChat account, pointing to Trump's remark that the US "Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done".

"Almost there," wrote another ZTE employee.

According to a source close to the company, ZTE management welcomed the latest development and planned to negotiate with the US for a resolution under the guidance of the Chinese government.

The news boosted telecoms and semiconductor-related stocks in China, which were among the best performing on Monday.

Edison Lee, an analyst with Jefferies, expressed caution about the news in a investors' note, saying that "it does not mean the tech-focused trade conflict between China and the US is over".

Lee said Trump appeared to have made the move as a goodwill gesture at China's request in order for trade talks to continue and because he expected concessions from China. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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