Lifting of US export ban brings relief to ZTE staff, who had feared for jobs

Sense of relief for workers at ZTE after US ban is lifted

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 6:41pm

News that the US export ban has been lifted on Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE will come as a welcome relief to its 80,000 strong workforce and those who work in ancillary industries.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday announced the end of sanctions against ZTE in a deal that imposes a US$1 billion penalty on the company and the installation of a US-selected compliance team to prevent further incidents of the sort that initially prompted the Commerce Department to cut ZTE off from its US suppliers.

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The move looks set to bring to a close a lengthy period of negotiations, which began when US President Donald Trump said earlier in May that he had asked the Commerce Department to help Chinese technology company ZTE Corp “get back into business, fast” after being crippled by the US ban, in what was seen by many observers as a concession to Beijing ahead of high-stakes trade talks.

“Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” Trump wrote on Twitter at the time, saying he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a solution.

One ZTE worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had started looking for a new job in April after working for the company for a year and half. Around that time, he said, many workers at the Shenzhen-based company had started to reach out to potential new employers in China’s high-tech industries for fear of losing their existing job.

The worker actually received a new offer in late May after several rounds of interviews, with a 20 per cent pay rise to boot. However, he rejected the new opportunity when he saw that the situation at ZTE was improving and that the US ban would most likely be lifted.

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“I refused the offer not because the new company is bad, actually it is a leading company in the industry,” said the worker. “I decided not to leave ZTE because I clearly saw that the [US import ban] problem would be solved, based on the discussions of senior colleagues and management. I feel a sense of relief [now that the company has signed a settlement agreement with US].”

Most ZTE workers will be keeping quiet about their emotions though. “The company (ZTE) has strictly ordered all employees not to talk to the press. The order hasn't been removed,” said the worker.

Shares of ZTE’s suppliers advanced across Asia on Friday on news of the settlement, including Mobi Development in Hong Kong, Eoptolink Technology in Shenzhen, KH Vatec in South Korea and Genius Electronic Optical in Taiwan.

Additional reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Meng Jing.