NEW YORK (Reuters) – China’s ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) held a conference call on Wednesday with major suppliers, during which a company representative suggested the trade dispute with Beijing may have been a factor in last week’s U.S. order banning American firms from selling goods to the smartphone maker, according to a person familiar with the call.
The Commerce Department last week banned American firms from doing business with ZTE after the company violated an agreement reached after it was caught selling U.S. goods to Iran despite U.S. sanctions.
The ZTE representative on the call said it would be naive to think the ban was ordered in “a vacuum” and was assumed to be connected to the U.S.-China trade war, the person said.
The U.S. has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to warn that it would retaliate if Washington pushes ahead. The U.S. also has taken actions aimed at reducing access to the U.S. by ZTE and Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] amid allegations the companies could be using their technology to spy on Americans.
In response to a Reuters request for comment, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said late Wednesday that the order was “a law enforcement matter unrelated to broader trade policy,” according to a statement provided by a spokesman.
The conference call took place between ZTE and more than a dozen members of the Semiconductor Industry Association, the person said.