What started with an unexpected presidential tweet appears to be taking a more concrete form. The US government and China are said to be close to a deal that would lift a ban on the Chinese-based vendor ZTE that was imposed in April.
Reuters and others are reporting that sources close to the negotiations indicate that the shift is part of a broader deal that could involve China removing tariffs on US agricultural products. Such a deal would be another confusing turn in what has been a bewildering 'trade war'.
But the ZTE ban wasn't over trade, but rather over security. Shenzhen-based ZTE had angered the US by allowing gear with US-built components to wind up in the hands of North Korea and Iran, and then rewarding the executives involved after promising to punish them. Of course, ZTE disputes this, but in April the ban came down and threatened the company's ability to stay in business.
Then came Trump's tweet about rescuing ZTE and the jobs in China that might be lost, and now possibly a broader deal swiftly on the heels of that, all with this North Korea thing looming in the background. Was it all good-cop-bad-cop?
Also on the table could be Qualcomm's deal with NXP Semiconductors, which China had been standing in the way of.
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