Trump 'to call for China IP trade probe tomorrow'

WASHINGTON • 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.

Mr Trump had been expected to order a so-called Section 301 investigation under the 1974 Trade Act earlier this month, but action had been postponed as the White House pressed for China's cooperation in reining in North Korea's nuclear programme.

Used frequently during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the law allows the US president to impose tariffs and other measures to force open export markets.

Politico said it was not clear how much detail Mr Trump would provide in his announcement, but that officials expected US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open a Section 301 probe.

Officials at the White House and the US Trade Representative's Office were not immediately available for comment.

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. While China joined in a unanimous United Nations Security Council decision to tighten economic sanctions on Pyongyang over its long-range missile tests, it is not clear whether Mr Trump thinks Beijing is doing enough.

"We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel," Mr Trump told reporters last Thursday. "If China helps us, I feel a lot different towards trade."

Mr Trump will make a day trip to Washington, DC, tomorrow, briefly interrupting his 17-day August working vacation, a White House official said on Friday.

Politico said the trade probe would not mean immediate sanctions, but could ultimately lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods.

In addition to the US, the European Union, Japan, Germany and Canada have all expressed concern about China's behaviour on IP theft. The technology sector has been especially hard hit in IP disputes.

Mr Trump's threat to investigate China's IP and trade practices is valid, but his administration may not be up to the delicate task of carrying out a new China probe without sparking a damaging trade war, US business lobbyists said.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 13, 2017, with the headline 'Trump 'to call for China IP trade probe tomorrow''. Print Edition | Subscribe