US Formally Lifts Ban on China’s ZTE

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The United States has formally lifted a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The Commerce Department said Friday that it had removed the ban after ZTE deposited $400 million in a U.S. bank escrow account as part of a settlement reached last month.

ZTE has already paid a $1 billion fine that is also part of its settlement with the U.S. government. 

“While we lifted the ban on ZTE, the department will remain vigilant as we closely monitor ZTE’s actions to ensure compliance with all U.S. laws and regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. He described the terms of the deal as the strictest ever imposed in such a case.

The Chinese company is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo. 

In April, the Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business. However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July.

Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump’s efforts and have taken steps to block the White House’s efforts to revive ZTE. The Senate passed legislation last month included in a military spending bill that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. That legislation now moves to a joint committee of House and Senate members who will decide the fate of the ZTE measure in a compromise defense bill. 

Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets. “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!” Trump said.

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