It was another stunning tweet from President Donald Trump. Only this time, he wasn’t giving some opponent a juvenile nickname.
“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” the president wrote Sunday on Twitter. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”
Some questions, Mr. President:
Why should any American care about jobs in China?
Why does our government care about jobs in China?
Does the Chinese government show any indication it cares about American jobs when it props up Chinese companies at the expense of American companies?
A penalty was imposed by the Trump administration against ZTE in March, an “unprecedented” $1.19 billion penalty leveled for violating U.S sanctions by shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea, Poilitico reported Monday. ZTE, which reached an agreement with the government on the charges, was further accused of lying to investigators and obstructing a probe into its actions.
“Those who flout our economic sanctions, export control laws and any trade regimes will not go unpunished,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the time. “They will suffer the harshest of consequences.”
We agree with Secretary Ross’ words and his apparent intentions: To demand that other nations honor our policies with regard to American goods.
But all indications are Secretary Ross was undercut by his boss on social media on Sunday.
If, as has been suggested, this is a negotiating tactic by President Trump, we eagerly await the announcement of what benefits American companies will receive in return for letting ZTE up off the mat.
Last month, Commerce accused ZTE of violating the agreement and blocked ZTE from importing American components for seven years. The seven-year ban was tantamount to a death sentence for ZTE.
“It was basically going to put them out of business,” said David Dollar, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former official at the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department. “They rely on American technology.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the two countries were in talks about such a potential swap: The U.S. would spare ZTE, and Beijing would drop plans to impose tariffs on U.S. farm products. Neither the White House nor the Commerce Department would comment.
Trade analysts say it is highly unusual for a president to intercede in a case brought by the Commerce Department and to mix regulatory sanctions with trade negotiations. We think it would be better if President Trump conducted such negotiations through back channels, or face to face, instead of on social media.
Because, based on what the president told his millions of Twitter followers on Sunday, we’d prefer that he continue on his America First policy with regard to trade and let China worry about making China great again.