>> Chinese tech giant ZTE may soon be back in business, after signing an initial deal to lift a crippling US sales ban. That's according to Reuters sources who are familiar with the agreement. ZTE's ban became a central sticking point in high level talks on the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.
If the deal is finalized, it may set China's number two device maker back on its feet, after the US Commerce Department hit the company with a seven year ban in April. It barred ZTE from buying US made software and hardware components after the company was caught illegally shipping products to Iran and North Korea.
A Commerce Department spokesperson said Tuesday that, quote, no definitive agreement has been signed, and ZTE did not respond to requests for comment. The deal would let the company off with a $1 billion fine, as well as $400 million held in escrow to cover against any future violations by ZTE.
Sources told Reuters that ZTE signed the initial deal over the weekend. Beijing made it clear during the course of trade talks that ZTE's survival was one of its big concerns. Last month, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he told commerce officials to figure out a way for the company to resume operations.
>> We caught them doing bad things, and we essentially made it so difficult that it was shut down. By shutting them down, were hurting a lot of American companies, really good American companies.>> This week's deal apparently requires ZTE to replace its board and executive team in 30 days.
However, Trump's recent turn on ZTE has met resistance in Washington. On Tuesday, US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused the president of letting ZTE off the hook. Saying, quote, the president who roared like a lion is governing like a lamb when it comes to China.>> It's not a witch hunt.