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Trump May Roll Out Probe Into China and Intellectual Property Theft

14 August 2017

"It's not going to continue like that", Trump said from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

The decision will not only take action against alleged Chinese violations of USA companies' intellectual property rights, but could also be perceived as an attempt by the US government to crank up the pressure on Beijing to rein in North Korea.

United States President Donald Trump will call tomorrow for his chief trade adviser to investigate China's intellectual property (IP) practices, website Politico reported, citing an unnamed administration official. Xi "stressed that China and the US share the same interests on the denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula". Pyongyang this week threatened to fire missiles near the USA territory of Guam during an exchange of bellicose rhetoric with Trump.

But trade and national security experts widely noted that the announcement appeared to have been delayed until after China joined the United States in voting for sanctions against North Korea at a United Nations Security Council session on August 5.

"These are totally unrelated events", a senior administration official told reporters.

They added that the trade measure would be carried out under the rules of global law and would not trigger greater conflict with China.

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"I think China can do a lot more", Trump told reporters on Thursday.

That step is expected Monday, but won't come as a surprise to the Beijing government. That effort passed by a 15-0 vote.

The president's trade action will be a long way from any punitive move against China, despite his and his advisors' open talk of Chinese "theft" and "stealing" of US companies' intellectual property, which broadly includes technological innovations, film and other artistic products, industrial designs and military secrets. "And I think China will do a lot more". "This is simply business between two countries".

The American companies "should not be forced or coerced to turn over the fruits of their labor", one official said.

The results of three separate investigations into trade deficits and the national security threats posed by imports of steel and aluminum, initially expected by the end of June, have yet to appear. "The current trajectory is unsustainable". "To make an announcement that they're going to decide whether to have an investigation on China's well-documented theft of our intellectual property is another signal to China that it is okay to keep stealing". The investigation is being ordered under US Trade Act of 1974, which officials said permits the USTR to investigate acts, policies or practices of a foreign country to determine whether they are indeed unreasonable or discriminatory that burden or otherwise restrict US commerce. "China is widely recognised as the biggest source of the problem", he said.

Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, a popular trade tool in the 1980s that has been rarely used in the past decade, allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions to protect US industries from "unfair trade practices" of foreign countries.

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If so, Lighthizer would have "broad powers" to seek remedial action.

The Section 301 provision is a powerful trade tool that has not been used in recent years. Such an investigation could easily last a year.

Lighthizer is well versed in Section 301 from his stint as deputy USTR in the Ronald Reagan administration, when it was more frequently used. Trump made addressing the USA trade deficit with China a centerpiece of his campaign a year ago, and has suggested raising tariffs on goods from China.

It was not immediately clear whether his trade dispute with Beijing would be the subject.

Administration officials emphasized Saturday that they are a long way from deciding what, if any, action to take if a Section 301 is launched and finds that China has engaged in unfair trade practices. That initiative sets forth a long-term plan for China's dominance in a wide variety of high-tech industries, including electric vehicles, advanced medical products and robotics.

Since the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established in 1995, the US has not imposed any trade investigations or sanctions based on Section 301 because that kind of unilateral action violates WTO rules requiring trade disputes among its members to be addressed on the WTO platform.

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It is possible that affected US companies "will hide the facts, fearful that our government won't follow through, that the Chinese will retaliate against their interests or that they'll have to admit what's happened to their critical assets", Wessel added. Dialogue, negotiations and a political settlement are the fundamental ways of solving the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue, Xi said during the call, according to China's CGTN state television network.

Trump May Roll Out Probe Into China and Intellectual Property Theft