The Trump administration told lawmakers the U.S. government has reached a deal to put Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp back in business, a senior congressional aide said on Friday.
The deal, communicated to officials on Capitol Hill by the Commerce Department, requires ZTE to pay a substantial fine, place American compliance officers at the company and change its management team, the aide said. The Commerce Department would then lift an order preventing ZTE from buying U.S. products.
In April, ZTE was banned from buying American technology components for seven years for breaking an agreement reached after it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The Commerce Department decision would allow it to resume business with U.S. companies, including Qualcomm Inc, the chipmaker that is a ZTE supplier.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday floated a plan to fine ZTE up to $1.3 billion and shake up its management as his administration considered rolling back more severe penalties that have crippled the Chinese telecommunications company.
The White House did not immediately confirm news of the latest deal.
“We’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that front,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
The president’s earlier proposal ran into immediate resistance in Congress, where Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans accused the president of bending to pressure from Beijing to ease up on a company that has admitted to violating sanctions on Iran.
After the latest report, Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Yes they have a deal in mind. It is a great deal… for #ZTE & China. #China crushes U.S. companies with no mercy & they use these telecom companies to spy & steal from us.”
Rubio added that Congress should act to stop Trump from letting ZTE get back into business.
News of the deal came a week before U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to visit China for another round of talks amid ongoing trade frictions between the world’s two largest economies.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Chris Sanders; editing by Jonathan Oatis