US eyeing alternative sanctions

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WASHINGTON: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday he was looking for “alternative remedies” to replace the sanctions that forced Chinese telecoms giant ZTE to essentially cease operations.

He also said he expected Chinese officials to raise the issue in talks in Washington this week on behalf of the company that was cut off from US technology products for violating US sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

“ZTE did do some inappropriate things. The question is are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward,” Ross said following a speech.

“And that’s the area we will be exploring very, very promptly.”


ZTE was fined $1.2 billion in March 2017 but last month it was hit with a steeper sanction, prohibiting US firms from supplying it with needed parts after the Commerce Department found the company had lied multiple times and failed to take actions against employees responsible for sanctions violations.

“This egregious behavior cannot be ignored,” Ross said at the time.

But President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement on Twitter on Sunday, offering to intervene to prevent the company from shutting down.

“President Xi of China and I are working together to give massive Chinese phone company ZTE a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump tweeted.

“Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

That move stunned many observers due to the president’s unusual if not unprecedented move to intercede directly in a law enforcement matter.

Ross said that, while he expected Chinese officials would bring up the issue this week, “our position has been that that’s an enforcement action separate from trade.”

He noted that the ZTE case showed China remained dependent on US technology.

Trump waded into the issue again on Monday afternoon with another tweet but the purpose was unclear.

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