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GOP sen: Possible deal with ZTE ‘a bargaining chip for Trump’

GOP sen: Possible deal with ZTE ‘a bargaining chip for Trump’
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) said Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE's plans to possibly save Chinese company ZTE from economic sanctions is a "bargaining chip" that can be used to bring China back to the table on a trade deal.

In an interview with CNN's "New Day," Kennedy said that Trump is working on a "larger trade deal with China" and that his announcement on ZTE plays into that strategy.

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"I think this is part of a chess game," Kennedy said. "Now, I haven't heard the president say this, but he's implied it. I think he's trying to negotiate a larger trade deal with China, and this is part of it."

"I think we really hurt ZTE [with the tariffs]," Kennedy continued. "My guess is [Chinese President] Xi Jinping has asked for a little relief and the president's doing a little negotiating, trying to get us a better trade deal."

The president tweeted on Sunday that he was looking for a way to get ZTE "back into business, fast," after the company was hurt by a U.S. decision to disallow companies from doing business with the Chinese telecom giant.

The Commerce Department blocked U.S. companies last month from doing business with ZTE, which it accused of violating a deal to pay a $1.2 billion fine for evading sanctions, CNN reports.

The U.S. and China have gone back and forth with dueling tariff announcements, causing experts to worry about the possibility of a global trade war.

Trump himself has promised that a trade war with China would be "easy" to win and "good" for the country.

“When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win,” Trump tweeted in March.