U.S. starts lifting ban on ZTE

U.S. authorities are allowing China's ZTE Corp. to resume some business with American companies, temporarily easing part of a ban imposed over the tech giant's exports to Iran and North Korea.

The Commerce Department's order this week follows a settlement under which ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, replace its executive team and hire U.S. compliance officers. The company, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, suspended most operations after it was banned in April from buying U.S. components and technology. 

ZTE will be allowed to conduct business with American companies to maintain existing telecom networks and mobile phones and to support security features, according to the order by the department's Bureau of Industry and Security. That permission lasts through Aug. 1.

ZTE pleaded guilty in March 2017 to violating U.S. sanctions against doing business with Iran and North Korea, and agreed to pay a $1.19 billion penalty. The company promised to discipline employees involved in the scheme, but the Commerce Department said this week they were paid bonuses instead.

The company had been paying American suppliers an estimated $1.8 billion annually. 

ZTE had $17.2 billion in sales last year, doing business with carrier networks, consumers and governments.