Trump, Xi Ease Trade Tensions With ZTE, Qualcomm Reversals

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and China signaled a desire to avoid a costly trade war after President Donald Trump offered a lifeline to beleaguered telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp. and China’s Xi Jinping dispatched his top economic adviser to Washington.

Vice Premier Liu He -- who is Xi’s top aide for economic matters -- will travel Tuesday to the U.S. for trade talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Chinese regulators have restarted their review of Qualcomm Inc.’s application to acquire NXP Semiconductors NV, according to people familiar with the process. The work had been shelved earlier in reaction to growing U.S. trade tensions.

Shares of NXP surged as much as 12 percent in U.S. pre-market trade while Qualcomm was up 3.4 percent.

The moves came after Trump said in a Sunday morning tweet that he and Xi are working together to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast.” His administration had cut off the massive Chinese company from its U.S. suppliers for violating the terms of a 2017 sanctions settlement related to trading with Iran and North Korea, then lying about it.

The tweet represented to a drastic shift in tone for Trump, who has sought to use any leverage possible in negotiations aimed at lowering the U.S. trade deficit with China. It was also a major reversal for a president who has accused China many times of stealing U.S. jobs. Trump said the “Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” because “too many jobs in China lost.”

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Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China “highly commends” Trump’s gesture on ZTE and said it was working on the details with the U.S. “The two sides are maintaining close communication,” he told a regular briefing.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Trump received anything in return. The Qualcomm approval, if it comes, would mark another step back from a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Qualcomm declined to comment. China’s commerce ministry didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment. The State Council Information Office didn’t respond to faxed questions.

Liu will be accompanied by Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, along with deputy ministers from the commerce, finance and foreign affairs ministries, as well as the central bank, one of the people said. Both asked not to be identified because the schedule isn’t public.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Haze Fan, Keith Zhai, Ben Brody

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