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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s pledge to help a Chinese telecommunication company that broke U.S. sanctions law sparked a backlash from lawmakers who said the move could weaken the U.S. hand in upcoming trade talks with Beijing.

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of ZTE Corp is seen on its building in Beijing, China April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Trump said on Sunday that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help ZTE Corp revive jobs after the company ran afoul of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran by selling telecom equipment made with U.S. components.

His decision angered lawmakers from both parties, who said it looked like he was backing down ahead of high-stakes trade talks this week in Washington between the United States and China.

“One of the few areas where the president and I agreed, and I was vocally supportive, was his approach towards China. But even here he is backing off, and his policy is now designed to achieve one goal: make China great again,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about lowering drug prices from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Republican Senator Marco Rubio cited concerns about Beijing using telecom companies like ZTE (000063.SZ) (0763.HK), China’s second-largest maker of telecommunications equipment, for espionage.

“I hope this isn’t the beginning of backing down to China,” Rubio said on Twitter, saying Chinese competition had “ruined” many U.S. companies.

“We are crazy to allow them to operate in U.S. without tighter restrictions,” Rubio said.

In April, the Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling to ZTE for seven years after it illegally shipped U.S. goods to Iran and North Korea.

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