Trump to launch investigation into China's trade practice

13 August, 2017, 17:00 | Author: Benny Bass
  • Trump to launch investigation into China's trade practice

United States President Donald Trump will sign an executive memorandum on Monday authorizing the USA trade representative to determine whether to investigate China's intellectual property and trade or not.

But the high-profile announcement the administration is planning carries symbolic as well as practical ramifications, and serves to ratchet up trade pressure on Beijing amid a deepening foreign policy crisis. There is no deadline for deciding if any investigation is necessary. It also allows USTR to self-initiate an investigation, but once a probe is launched a clock starts ticking that requires action within a year.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has stressed the importance of China-U.S. trade ties and urged U.S. authorities to abide by WTO rules in its trade measures. Many U.S. businesses must create joint ventures with Chinese companies and turn over valuable technology assets, a practice that Washington says stifles U.S. economic growth.

The latest step follows the opening by the Trump administration of several other investigations into Chinese commercial practices, notably in the steel sector. If an investigation begins, the US government could seek remedies either through the World Trade Organization or outside of it.

It wasn't immediately clear how China would react to the move.

While Beijing has promised to open more industries to foreign companies, it also has issued new rules on electric vehicle manufacturing, data security, internet censorship and other fields.

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.

"An important question going forward will be whether USA companies and trade associations who have highlighted the problem will actually come forward and assist our government in the investigation" - Michael Wessel, member of the U.S.

The decision will not only take action against alleged Chinese violations of US companies' intellectual property rights, but could also be perceived as an attempt by the USA government to crank up the pressure on Beijing to rein in North Korea.

"This is simply not fair", said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They know how I feel", he told reporters on Thursday.

In the past week Donald Trump has retweeted his threats to rain down fire and fury, boasted about the readiness of his nuclear army and told a nation his "military solutions" were "fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely". They reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, the White House said in a statement.

"President Trump is committed to protect America's intellectual property and national security", the official said. In April, he said he wouldn't label China a currency manipulator, in return for help in dealing with North Korea. He said it would be premature to speculate on actions that could eventually be taken against China, and added that the issue could be resolved through "negotiated agreement".

Trump's trade action reflects his frustration that the US and China were not able to make more progress on USA intellectual property concerns as part of the so-called 100-day plan to improve trade between the two countries - a period that ended earlier this summer - as well as during high-level talks last month in Washington, the administration official said.

Trump has requested similar inquiries on trade, but the reports haven't been delivered on deadline.

Apple, which has a turnover of more than $30 billion a year in China, is now subject to several measures taken by Beijing that hinder its activities in the country. 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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