WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump, who was criticized for a tweet last weekend indicating his administration was working to ease penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, denied on Wednesday that he had caved to Beijing’s demands.
Trump took to Twitter to respond to the criticism, saying the Washington Post and CNN had “typically written false stories.”
“Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal” with China, Trump wrote, adding that “there has been no folding as the media would love people to believe.”
“The meetings haven’t even started yet! The US has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!” the president said, referring to the US’ large trade deficits with the Asian nation.
Trump was trying to calm the waters after a surprising tweet on Sunday in which he said he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a solution that would get ZTE “back into business, fast” and lamented that the crippling penalties on the company had led to “too many jobs in China lost.”
On April 16, the US Commerce Department prohibited US companies from exporting components to ZTE through 2025.
It said then that the Shenzhen, China-based company had failed to comply with a settlement agreement resolving charges that it flouted US sanctions on North Korea and Iran by exporting US-made equipment to those countries.
Among other things, the US said ZTE, which agreed to pay a $1.19 billion penalty, had failed to reprimand the executives responsible for the sanctions violations.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is currently in Washington for meetings at the White House and the Treasury Department, a visit that comes amid trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and mutual threats to impose tens of billions of dollars in tariffs.