Trump says he wants the Commerce Department to lift ZTE's export ban

Trump says he wants the Commerce Department to lift ZTE's export ban

President Trump today, out of the blue, tweeted that he and the President of China are working to help out the Chinese phone company ZTE.

The comment marks a dramatic shift in tone for a president who has long accused China of stealing - and could presage a reversal of one of the Trump administration's toughest actions to date against a Chinese company.

United States commentators say the tone of the tweet is a dramatic shift for Mr Trump, who has consistently accused China of stealing U.S. jobs.

The company said Sunday it had submitted a request to the USA commerce department for a stay of the export ban, along with supplemental information. The company said it is working to have the ban modified or reversed.

Meanwhile, ZTE, which relies on US firms for key smartphone components, including microchips from Qualcomm and glass from Corning, has said the USA export ban is a massive disruption to its business and ZTE Chairman Yin Yimin called it unfair and unacceptable.

"Major operating activities of the company have ceased" as a result of the U.S. decision, it said in a filing Wednesday.

The extent of the impact of the Commerce Department ban on United States suppliers was noted by the ZTE official, who was not authorised to speak publicly, as Chinese and U.S. government officials discuss a Washington visit next week by China's top economic official.

Given that USA sanctions were imposed on ZTE due to threats to national security and its violation of trade sanctions with Iran and North Korea, Trump's desire to give the company another chance in the truly unexpected.

ZTE announced Wednesday that "the major operating activities of the company have ceased".

ZTE paid over $100 million each to other USA suppliers in 2017 including chip makers Xilinx Inc and optical component company Acacia Communications and memory chip maker Sandisk, the ZTE official said.

Qualcomm last month said it expected lost sales to ZTE to lower its earnings by 3 cents per share in the current quarter.

ZTE spent more than $2.3bn on imports from about 200 USA companies a year ago.

Against that background, the Trump administration has barred military and government employees from using smartphones from ZTE and fellow Chinese maker Huawei. ZTE provides services for 100 million users in India, 300 million users in Indonesia, and 29 million users in Italy, the official said.