WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday floated a plan to fine ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) (0763.HK) and shake up its management as his administration considered rolling back more severe penalties that have crippled the Chinese telecommunications company.
Trump’s proposal ran into immediate resistance in Congress, where Republicans and Democrats accused the president of bending to pressure from Beijing to ease up on a company that has admitted to violating sanctions on Iran.
Their reaction could complicate Trump’s efforts to win concessions from China that would narrow a $335 billion annual trade gap.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said U.S. technology companies have been hurt by an April Commerce Department decision that prohibits them from selling components to China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker. ZTE shut down most of its production after the ruling was announced.
“They can pay a big price without necessarily damaging all of these American companies,” Trump said.
Trump said ZTE may instead face a fine of up to $1.3 billion, new management and a new board of directors, though it was not clear whether he had the legal authority to impose new financial penalties.
Before Trump spoke, Republicans and Democrats in Congress were already taking action to prevent him from easing pressure on ZTE.
The Senate Banking Committee voted 23-2 to make it harder for the president to modify penalties on Chinese telecommunications firms. Lawmakers said they were examining other ways to prevent him from bending to Chinese demands, perhaps by attaching restrictions to a military bill or other must-pass legislation.
“Unfortunately, every time President Xi flatters our president, he seems to back off a tough deal,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who accused Trump of jeopardizing national security for what