From the first day that Donald Trump troublingly assumed the office of president, diplomatic relations with international allies and key global partners have been shaky at best. Ranging from President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords, to showing volatility in America’s NATO obligations, and in some cases showing blatant disrespect to other world leaders, the leverageable and respectable position that the United States once held on the world stage has seemingly eroded in the last 18 months.
One of the more concerning diplomatic ties that President Trump has so carelessly toyed around with is that of the various trade agreements and overarching economic partnership that exists between the United States and China. By escalating a seemingly arbitrary trade war, perhaps as a mere means of sending a message, the Trump administration has created a detrimental and unnecessary rocky relationship with the economic powerhouse. However, the problems in Trump’s economic policy towards China reach beyond the trade war’s escalation, as questions are emerging around the underlying bargaining chips being traded back and forth, and more specifically the safety concerns regarding the administration’s reckless tit-for-tat tactics.
As the trade war between the US and China remains heightened, various give and take factors have become key in working towards de-escalation. Most recently has been that of the concerns surrounding Chinese telecommunications giant, ZTE. The corporation, which has been blacklisted and crippled due to breaking international obligations, has become a centerpiece in the tariff disputes between the US and China, as Chinese officials have remained steadfast to ensure an ease on ZTE restrictions be a part of the negotiations.
According to a Bloomberg report:
‘The US blocked ZTE’s access to US suppliers in April, saying the company violated a 2017 sanctions settlement related to trading with Iran and North Korea and then lied about the violations. The company announced it was shutting down just weeks after the ban was announced.
‘President Donald Trump reversed course last month, saying as a personal favor to Chinese President Xi Jinping he was reconsidering penalties on ZTE…
‘While the Trump administration has said the ZTE situation is a separate issue from the trade row, China made easing the ZTE sanctions a precondition to engaging on US demands last month as the trade talks got started.’
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) June 6, 2018
ZTE first came under investigation by the US government in 2012, when reports emerged that the company was devising plans to sidestep US sanctions on Iran, using their purchases of US technology components and incorporating them into their own products, and ultimately shipping them to Iran.
Why did this @Reuters reporter fail to unpack this crucial security matter for us? "…Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans have accused him of bowing to pressure from Beijing to help a company that has been labeled a threat to U.S. national security."https://t.co/QWspGijIf7
— Prof T (@RhetoricalMedia) June 6, 2018
With preliminary agreements having been reached on Tuesday, lawmakers and experts are concerned about the security ramifications that this easing could have, leaving ZTE greater flexibility and capabilities to access American data through back-door channels, causing US citizens and companies to be vulnerable to the telecommunications behemoth.
The newly agreed upon deal regarding ZTE agrees to lift the widespread limitations on the company in return for roughly $1.3 billion in penalties, and the replacement of their top executives and board members as a means of showing good faith. However, lying and deception is clearly a game that ZTE is more than comfortable with, as seen in their track record, leaving open the very real possibility that it could happen yet again.
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