Trump opens door to investigating China's "theft" of United States intellectual property

Marsha Scott
August 13, 2017

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

The investigation could take as long as a year, USA officials said. President Trump has previously chastised China for not doing enough about the hermit nation, however, an administration official said the move Monday is unrelated to North Korea. In April, he said he wouldn't label China a currency manipulator, in return for help in dealing with North Korea.

And then on Thursday, when speaking with reporters, Trump said in relation to North Korea, "if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade".

Mr Trump has suggested he would go easier on China if it were more forceful in getting North Korea to rein in its nuclear weapons programme.

He simply will initiate the latest investigation of intellectual property theft in a long line of them running back through past administrations.

"China's unfair trade practices and industrial policies including forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft harm the United States economy and its workers", a second administration official said.

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

The administration is likely eager to make progress on trade, one of Trump's biggest campaign issues, after a recent series of legislative setbacks, trade experts said. Lighthizer will recommend whether an official investigation into trade practices is warranted.

Trade experts and business leaders said the new investigation into intellectual property could be a sign that the trade agenda is shifting into the hands of United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, a respected negotiator who helped implement some of the most protectionist trade policies of recent decades during the Reagan administration.

At the end of March, Trump asked the Commerce Department to prepare a report on the causes of the trade deficit, country by country and product by product, in 90 days.

Used frequently during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the law allows the USA president to impose tariffs and other measures to force open export markets. Lighthizer can do so under Section 302 (b) of the Trade Act of 1974, which outlines the process by which USTR can initiate an investigation "by means other than petition", a senior official told reporters on August 12. Trump made addressing the USA trade deficit with China a centerpiece of his campaign past year and has suggested raising tariffs on goods from China.

Meanwhile, China has continued to maintain barriers that prevent USA companies from accessing its market, while adding new requirements for US companies to share technology with the Chinese state, like a recent cybersecurity law. "And I think China will do a lot more".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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