Trump moves to pressure China on trade practices

Claudine Rigal
Août 12, 2017

The president plans to sign an executive memorandum Monday afternoon directing his top trade negotiator to determine whether to investigate China for harming intellectual property, innovation and technology, senior administration officials said in a conference call Saturday morning.

That step is expected Monday but won't come as a surprise to the Beijing government.

They said the investigation would not mean immediate sanctions, but could ultimately lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods. They were not authorized to publicly discuss the private call and spoke on condition of anonymity.

"China's been engaged in the theft and forced transfer of USA technologies and intellectual property for years".

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

In the conference call, officials did not rule out working with the WTO or other countries to penalize Chinese intellectual property violations, saying that the portions of US trade law they are relying on, Sections 301 and 302 of the 1974 trade law, allow them to take a broad range of actions. "It's not going to continue like that", Trump said from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

On Saturday, administration officials said the new trade measure was "totally unrelated" to events with North Korea. "This is why the president has chosen to act now and to act boldly", one administration official said.

President Trump has repeatedly expressed his frustration at Beijing for its perceived failure to do more in convincing the rogue state to halt its nuclear missile programme. "They know how I feel", he told reporters on Thursday.

"If China helps us, I feel a lot different toward trade".

It's impossible, however, to see the move as somehow disconnected from the back-and-forth rhetoric between the US and North Korea over the past week.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit last month in Hamburg.

Global tensions have escalated as Trump and North Korean President Kim Jung Un traded threats of nuclear war in recent days. They added that the trade measure would be carried out under the rules of global law and would not trigger greater conflict with China.

It is understood the White House delayed the announcement as it sought China's help with the North Korea crisis.

The United States has a long list of grievances about China on trade, including accusations of steel dumping and theft of U.S. intellectual property.

"Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet. they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk".

In doing so, Mr Trump will attempt to make good on a campaign promise to sort out America's trade deficit, with Chinese imports now dwarfing United States exports by some £268n. The report has yet to be released. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had hoped to finish the review by June, but parts of it remain in the final stages of interagency review.

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