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Trump Trade Positions Cause Whiplash

President Trump threatened to impose tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese product, working up to what seemed to be a full-scale trade war with China.  the nation’s greatest economic adversary. Now, suddenly, Mr. Trump seems ready to make peace by lifting sanctions on a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, which has been fined over a billion dollars due to violating American sanctions by selling to Iran and North Korea and then covering up the exports and rewarding the executives involved.  The American payoff? China agrees to buy more American products and lifts its own crippling restrictions on American agriculture.  In a tweet on Sunday, Mr. Trump declared, “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

The Trump administration threatened ZTE’s existence as a business last month, when the Commerce Department ordered a seven-year halt in American shipments of computer microchips and software that are at the heart of most of ZTE’s telecommunications gear.  ZTE, a 75,000-employee business that makes smartphones and cellphone tower equipment, began shutting down operations last week after it was unable to find alternative suppliers.  The move also hit one of the biggest American telecom companies, Qualcomm, which lost the ability to export semiconductors to ZTE, one of its biggest customers.

The tweet provoked a swift and harsh response from Democratic and Republican lawmakers.  On Monday, the White House denied that accommodating China’s concerns represented a broken promise by Mr. Trump to protect America’s interests, saying that the relationship with China was complex.   Trump’s offer to throw ZTE a lifeline found a receptive audience in Beijing.

For more: NY Times

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