China says it will defend interests if US harms trade ties

China Shipping containers sit on a ship in the Port of Los Angeles after being imported to California, on Oct 7, 2010.
China Shipping containers sit on a ship in the Port of Los Angeles after being imported to California, on Oct 7, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (REUTERS) -  China said on Tuesday (Aug 15) that it would take actions to defend its interests if the United States damages trade ties after US President Donald Trump authorised an inquiry into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property.

The United States should respect objective facts, act prudently, and not destroy principles of multilateralism, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

China's state news agency Xinhua also said  a decision by the United States to investigate China's trade practices is a unilateralist "baring of fangs" that will hurt both sides. 

Trump on Monday authorised an inquiry into China's alleged theft of intellectual property that administration officials said could have cost the United States as much as US$600 billion (S$818 billion).

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will have a year to look into whether to launch a formal investigation of China's trade policies on intellectual property, which the White House and US industry lobby groups say are harming US businesses and jobs.

"While it is still too soon to say that the United States intends a showdown with China on trade, it is no exaggeration that the latest baring of fangs on Washington's part against China, like all the other unilateral moves by Washington, will hurt not only China, but the United States itself in the long run," Xinhua said.

Xinhua said while Chinese exporters could be the first to suffer from trade sanctions, the pain would soon spread to US industries and households, adding that China was willing to resolve any disputes between the two sides through dialogue.

 
 
 

The investigation is likely to cast a shadow over US relations with China, its largest trading partner, just as Trump is asking Beijing to put more pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear programme.

Ken Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said in a statement on Tuesday that trade and North Korea should not be linked, and said the investigation was a sign of growing U.S. discontent with Chinese trade practices.

"The President's executive order reflects building frustration with Chinese trade and market entry policies, particularly those that pressure American companies to part with technologies and intellectual property in exchange for market access," he said.

"Chinese companies operating in the United States do not face this pressure." "We support actions that recognise the importance of U.S.-China commercial ties but which also encourage progress towards a more equitable trading relationship," he said.