Published: Mon, August 14, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

White House details plan to ratchet up trade pressure on China

White House details plan to ratchet up trade pressure on China

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.

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.

In a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two leaders reaffirmed their shared desire for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Trump, now on a 17-day working summer vacation at his golf resort in New Jersey, is returning to the White House for a day on Monday to sign this executive order directing the US Trade Representative to probe the matter.

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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Chinese commercial policy aimed to acquire and absorb the intellectual property of the United States and other countries around the world, according to the officials.

China has consistently sought the resumption of the "six-party talks" (alongside Russia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the US), which collapsed in 2009 but could trumpet Beijing's role as a mediator. But they may not know that China is forcing and coercing American companies that operate in China to turn over their technology.

"I don't think we're heading toward a period of greater conflict (with China)", said one White House official. 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. That effort passed by a 15-0 vote.

The trade investigation could strain relations between the USA and China as the two countries wrestle with the unpredictable situation over North Korea.

The Chinese policies of an American company to enter into a join venture with a Chinese company to do business is "not fair", the official said.

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USA officials also sought to downplay any link between the North Korea issue and the IP action, which they called a response to the long-standing irritant of China's lack of respect for American intellectual property. Even now, the extra step of determining whether to start the investigation is less than trade hawks might have wanted, but softens the blow to China and gives Trump a cudgel to hold over it if he does not get the cooperation he wants.

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.

"China has no real effective leverage to de-escalate the situation if both Trump and North Korea's Kim (Jong-un) are reckless", said Xu Guoqi, a foreign relations expert at the University of Hong Kong.

Michael Wessel, a commissioner on the U.S.

Politico said the trade probe would not mean immediate sanctions, but could ultimately lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods. It was unclear whether the issue of trade came up. 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.

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"We would like to emphasize that the Chinese government has always attached importance to intellectual property protection", a spokesman said. Chinese leaders believe the United States sees its true rival as China, a mammoth economy, and not North Korea, one of the poorest countries on earth, Sun said. -China Economic and Security Review Commission, a watchdog group established by Congress.

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