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Is There Any Art in Trump’s China Deal?

The President better get a lot in return if he lets ZTE off the hook.

Is President Donald Trump’s emerging trade deal with China as bad as it looks? It’s hard to see how he will be able to call it a win—unless perhaps the deal’s most important terms have nothing to do with trade.

Late Sunday morning Mr. Trump tweeted,“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!”

Protecting jobs in China was not exactly part of the agenda Mr. Trump campaigned on in 2016 and the announcement seems to have caught some members of his administration by surprise. Amid concerns about the terms of trade he’s negotiating with communist China, President Trump advised his Twitter followers on Sunday to “be cool” and promised “it will all work out!”

If one were to create a list of the companies where Americans should not want jobs created, the telecommunications giant ZTE might be at the top. The history of cyber-attacks emanating from China and the security risks of any Chinese company having a major role in the world’s telecom infrastructure are natural reasons for caution. And then there is the particular record of ZTE.

Last month the Journal reported:

... the Commerce Department said Monday that ZTE had violated the terms of a previous settlement, alleging it illegally evaded sanctions. The department said ZTE agreed last year to combined civil and criminal penalties and forfeiture amounting to $1.19 billion for allegedly shipping sanctioned telecom gear to Iran and North Korea.
The agency said Monday it has since determined ZTE made false statements during and after the settlement talks. Moreover, the company didn’t discipline executives involved, as agreed, and paid them full bonuses.
It said as a result, ZTE would no longer be able to buy components from U.S. manufacturers. The move could impact ZTE supply lines and U.S. firms that have come to rely on ZTE as a customer.

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