ZTE agrees to 'strictest' US Commerce settlement

Image Credit REUTERS  Carlo Allegri

On Tuesday, Commerce Department spokesman James Rockas confirmed that "no definitive agreement [had] been signed by both parties".

After having been found to have sold equipment to sanctioned countries such as Iran and North Korea, ZTE was previously fined $1.19 billion. The Trump administration had previously announced that it was banning us companies from selling ZTE components for seven years, components critical to its entire product line. Their jobs were in jeopardy after ZTE lost access to US technology and suspended most of its operations.

The deal which ZTE has agreed to would see the company pay a $1 billion fine, with $400 million in escrow should the company break the terms of agreement again.

According to Ross, ZTE will pay a US$1 billion fine to the U.S. government, on top of the US$1.2 billion the Chinese company paid in penalties in March, when it admitted exports to Iran and North Korea despite worldwide trade sanctions. Should the Chinese company break any of the US export control laws during this period, the BIS can activate the suspended denial order which would, once again, disallow them from doing business with USA companies in any capacity. The company's plight has attracted huge interest in China and may prove a catalyst for the government to help Chinese firms become less dependent on the U.S. for fundamental technology.

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"We will closely monitor ZTE's behavior", said Ross in the release.

ZTE at the time said it would discipline the executives involved, but this year the Commerce Department learned that four of those people stayed at ZTE, and received bonuses.

Washington and Beijing have pursued a halting series of trade talks, with Trump demanding a $200 billion reduction in its yawning trade deficit with China.

The agreement comes as US President Donald Trump seeks trade concessions from China and negotiations continue to avoid a trade war between the world's two largest economies. "The strictest and largest fine that has ever been brought by the Commerce Department against any violator of export control", he said.

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The fine comes after Donald Trump stepped in to save the company after United States regulators barred it from doing business in the USA, an effective death blow for the company. The ban crippled the company, and it ceased "major operating activities" one month later. Also extraordinary, and indicative of its desperation, is its decision to sign off on the U.S. demand to embed a compliance team within the organization, which can possibly compromise its commercial, business and technology secrets.

ZTE will also be required to replace its management board within 30 days. Their function will be to monitor on a real-time basis ZTE's compliance with US export control laws.

We're learning about a settlement that will cost ZTE $1.4 Billion.

As part of a new agreement, the sources said, ZTE will retain another compliance contractor in addition to the three-year court-appointed monitor imposed by the plea agreement.

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