Senators may block Trump’s ZTE deal whether he likes it or not

A woman stands outside a building of ZTE Beijing research and development center in Beijing China

A ZTE smart phone is pictured in this illustration taken April 17, 2018.

Trump's ZTE deal that would save the company may not happen after all.

Confirming details of the agreement publicized by the USA government on Monday, ZTE said it would replace its board of directors and that of its import-export subsidiary ZTE Kangxun within 30 days of the June 8 order being signed by the United States.

The bipartisan amendment would reimpose penalties on ZTE for violating US sanctions against exporting to Iran and North Korea that the Trump administration sought to lift in exchange for the company paying a $1 billion fine and funding an in-house compliance team of USA officials.

All members of its leadership at or above the senior vice-president level will be removed within the 30-day period, with a commitment they will not be rehired, along with any executives or officers tied to the wrongdoing, it said. Among other things, it would restore penalties on ZTE for violating USA export controls and bar US government agencies from purchasing or leasing equipment or services from the Chinese company.

ZTE was essentially dealt a death sentence by the Commerce Department in April when it barred the company from buying U.S. products due to repeated sanctions violations.

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"ZTE should have a significant loss in FY18E due to the penalty in addition to near-term operational challenges due to management change and increased overseas growth uncertainties", Citi analyst Bin Liu wrote.

Last week, Reuters reported a preliminary deal included a US$1-billion fine and US$400-million to be paid by ZTE in escrow to cover any future violations. Meanwhile, there's no guarantee US lawmakers won't come back with further sanctions.

The Senate added the block to the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation.

The move enraged Republicans and Democrats who said ZTE not only worked with Iran and North Korea in violation of US sanctions, but is a threat to national security, offering Chinese intelligence operatives a way to spy on the USA through ZTE products. The department also will select a monitor, known as a special compliance coordinator, within 30 days to report on compliance by ZTE and its affiliates worldwide for 10 years.

A separate monitor was appointed to a three-year term by a USA federal court in Texas last year. "What you are seeing is a bipartisan reaction against letting ZTE off the hook" he said. It depends on US-made components for the production of handsets.

The Senate is on the verge of directly undercutting a key piece of President Donald Trump's trade negotiations with China, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers successfully pushed for the inclusion of a bill to undo a deal to save Chinese telecom ZTE.

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