White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah responded to questions about President Donald Trump’s newfound support for Chinese phone company ZTE, despite past remarks in which the president criticized U.S. trade relations with China.
During a White House press briefing on Monday, Fox News’ John Roberts asked Shah about Trump’s weekend tweet in which the president said he’s working with China to offer aid to the communications giant, citing “too many jobs in China lost.”
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
Roberts asked why the president decided to change his administration’s policy on ZTE after the company was sanctioned for doing business with Iran and North Korea and U.S. intelligence officials warned citizens against using the company’s devices over concerns of counterespionage.
“This is part of a very complex relationship between the United States and China that involves economic issues, national security issues and the like,” Shah explained. “It’s is an issue of high concern for China that’s been raised with the U.S. government and with our administration at various levels.”
“The president has asked [Commerce] Secretary [Wilbur] Ross to look into it consistent with applicable laws and regulations,” he added.
Watch deputy press secretary Shah respond to questions about ZTE below:
Reporters didn’t seem satisfied with that response though, and other members of the press asked Shah whether the president’s statements on ZTE have anything to do with ongoing trade negotiations with China, or with the upcoming summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
But Shah responded in the same vague terms, refusing to give detail on the White House’s motives for supporting a Chinese company known as a potential hazard to U.S. businesses.
When asked how the Trump’s comments on ZTE square with his campaign remarks accusing Chinese companies of stealing American jobs, Shah simply said that the issue doesn’t have “any bearing” on statements the president made on the campaign trail.
Shah went on to reiterate the ways in which Trump has been tough on trade with China in an effort to ease the trade deficit, but he would not answer questions about whether the Chinese government had given up any concessions in exchange for U.S. support for the phone company.
But as the president continues to weigh in on the progress of trade talks with China, the issue of U.S. support for ZTE may come up again in relations to negotiations between American and Chinese businesses.