ZTE was accused of dodging United States sanctions on Iran in 2016, by selling technology from the U.S. to Iran through multiple shell companies. The U.S. Department of Commerce threatened to cut off ZTE from all its supply chain partners in the United States, which ZTE avoided by paying nearly a billion dollars in fines.
The ban went into force last month, after the DoC said ZTE had not complied with the agreement by not disciplining select employees involved in the operation. The move heavily crippled the company, which has shut down most operations while it works with the Department of Commerce. President Trump tweeted this morning that he is working with China to remove the supply chain ban.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
The move surprised many, not just because it's the first time the president has made a public statement about ZTE, but also because the Department of Commerce and Treasury Department were strongly against the ban being lifted. No other details are available at this time.