President Trump is preparing to lift a trade ban imposed by the Commerce Department on Shenzhen-based technology company ZTE, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing sources familiar with the ongoing trade talks between the United States and China. The two global superpowers are already said to have agreed to some basic details of a deal meant to provide a lifeline to ZTE whose operations were effectively crippled following a seven-year ban on purchasing any kind of American hardware or software which was issued last month.
While the pact is still being worked out, ZTE is understood to have agreed to significant concessions in exchange for the ban being lifted, including new fines meant to be imposed on top of the $892 million penalty the company paid last year over a conspiracy to violate U.S. trade sanctions imposed on North Korea and Iran. The original equipment manufacturer is also said to have agreed to make major management changes and alter its board structure, though the specifics of such efforts have yet to be ironed out. One source cited by the report remains adamant that Washington isn't using ZTE's case as leverage in its trade negotiations with China, though President Trump himself related the episode to the existing tensions between the two countries.
The Commerce Department's ban is likely to bankrupt ZTE in the near future if it isn't lifted, with Beijing wanting to avoid that scenario at all cost, not only because it's a majority owner of the publicly traded OEM but also because the struggling firm is one of the largest telecom companies in the Far Eastern country that's meant to play an important role in China's 5G deployment efforts. As part of the same negotiations, the government helmed by President Xi Jinping is said to have agreed to lift tariffs imposed on U.S. farm goods, as per the same report. ZTE already filed for a reprieve of the supply ban but has yet to hear back from American regulators.