US president Donald Trump. Picture: AFP
US president Donald Trump. Picture: AFP

Washington — President Donald Trump says the US has not yet taken any action to ease penalties on Chinese telecommunications manufacturer ZTE.

"Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal," Trump said in a series of tweets on Wednesday. "We have not seen China’s demands yet, which should be few in that previous US Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating," Trump said. "China has seen our demands."

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He arrived in Washington this week for talks with the Trump administration on ways to resolve the trade dispute between the two countries.

Liu is President Xi Jinping’s top aide for economic matters. He will spend four days in the US for trade talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, his second visit in 2018. A round of talks earlier in May in Beijing ended in discord.

"There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe, the meetings haven’t even started yet!" Trump added.

He shocked many in Washington with a tweet on Sunday that he was working with Xi to give ZTE "a way to get back into business, fast".

Trump said "too many jobs in China" had been lost and that his commerce department "has been instructed to get it done!".

The announcement from Trump drew swift condemnation from Republican and Democratic legislators.

It was an abrupt shift from the campaign Trump has mounted against Chinese technology companies, which he regularly accuses of stealing American intellectual property and exploiting unfair trade rules.

In April, the commerce department cut off ZTE from US suppliers, saying it violated 2017 sanctions related to trading with Iran and North Korea and then lied about the violations.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday in Washington that the department was now considering "alternative remedies" for ZTE’s sanctions violations and would seek to resolve the issue "very, very promptly".