Prod­ding China on trade

Trump plans to look into tech­nol­ogy ‘theft’ but still wants Bei­jing to help with N. Korea.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Jackie Calmes and Jes­sica Mey­ers Calmes re­ported from Wash­ing­ton. Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Mey­ers re­ported from Bei­jing.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump on Mon­day will start a process that could lead to ac­tion against China, which has been ac­cused of steal­ing Amer­i­can busi­nesses’ in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, even as he seeks Bei­jing’s help against nu­clear threats from North Korea.

Sev­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials out­lined the pre­lim­i­nary trade ac­tion to re­porters Sat­ur­day, sug­gest­ing — con­trary to Trump’s own state­ments — that trade pol­icy to­ward China is di­vorced from any na­tional se­cu­rity con­cern, in­clud­ing North Korea.

“Trade is trade; na­tional se­cu­rity is na­tional se­cu­rity,” said one of­fi­cial, who, like the oth­ers, spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in keep­ing with ad­min­is­tra­tion prac­tice.

As re­cently as Thurs­day, the pres­i­dent vol­un­teered a con­nec­tion be­tween the two, and not for the first time, in re­marks to re­porters about his week­long nu­clear stand­off with North Korea. Trump sug­gested that if China helped rein in North Korea, which re­lies on Bei­jing’s eco­nomic and se­cu­rity aid, he could ease his at­tacks on Chi­nese trade prac­tices, which were a main­stay of his elec­tion cam­paign.

“We lose hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It’s not go­ing to con­tinue like that,” Trump said from his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J. “But if China helps us, I feel a lot dif­fer­ently to­ward trade — a lot dif­fer­ently to­ward trade.”

The of­fi­cials would not con­firm re­ports that the trade ac­tion Trump plans to ini­ti­ate Mon­day had been de­layed more than a week, un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tion se­cured China’s sup­port to win a unan­i­mous vote Aug. 5 in the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for im­pos­ing new sanc­tions on North Korea.

The pres­i­dent’s trade ac­tion will be a long way from any puni­tive move against China, de­spite his and his ad­vi­sors’ open talk of Chi­nese “theft” and “steal­ing” of U.S. com­pa­nies’ in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, which broadly in­cludes tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions, film and other artis­tic prod­ucts, in­dus­trial de­signs and mil­i­tary se­crets.

He sim­ply will ini­ti­ate an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft, join­ing a long line of in­quiries run­ning back through past ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Trump ad­vi­sors said the pres­i­dent on Mon­day plans to sign an ex­ec­u­tive mem­o­ran­dum, which is a step be­low an ex­ec­u­tive or­der, di­rect­ing trade of­fi­cials to in­ves­ti­gate China’s “acts, poli­cies or prac­tices” that vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tions for Amer­i­can in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, in­no­va­tions and tech­nol­ogy.

In re­lated mat­ters, Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping urged re­straint in a phone call with Trump on Fri­day, warn­ing that “con­cerned par­ties” should avoid “re­marks and ac­tions” that could es­ca­late ten­sions on the Korean penin­sula.

Ac­cord­ing to the staterun New China News Agency, Xi re­it­er­ated China’s de­sire to work with the U.S., cit­ing “com­mon in­ter­ests” in pre­serv­ing sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.

Trump un­der­stands China’s ef­forts to re­solve the is­sue, the re­port said, and both lead­ers agreed to keep in close con­tact.

State me­dia por­trayed Xi as the voice of calm amid a trade-off of threats last week be­tween Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton. Trump on Fri­day said the U.S. mil­i­tary was “locked and loaded” and warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would “re­gret it fast” if he en­dan­gered the U.S. or its al­lies.

The iso­lated na­tion last week laid out a plan to launch bal­lis­tic mis­siles into wa­ters around Guam, a U.S. ter­ri­tory. China has re­peat­edly called for ne­go­ti­a­tions and scorned mil­i­tary ac­tion. It agreed to re­cent United Na­tions sanc­tions but fears a refugee cri­sis and the loss of a buf­fer state if North Korea’s econ­omy col­lapses.

The Global Times, a Com­mu­nist Party tabloid, warned Fri­day that China wouldn’t as­sist North Korea if it at­tacked U.S. ter­ri­tory and Amer­ica re­tal­i­ated. But if the U.S. and South Korea try to carry out strikes and over­throw the North Korean gov­ern­ment, “China will pre­vent them from do­ing so.”

U.S. of­fi­cials painted the call as one of friendly agree­ment.

The two lead­ers af­firmed North Korea must stop “its provoca­tive and es­ca­la­tory be­hav­ior,” the White House said in a state­ment. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two pres­i­dents is “an ex­tremely close one,” the ad­min­is­tra­tion added, call­ing Trump’s up­com­ing visit to China “a very his­toric event.”

‘[I]f China helps us, I feel a lot dif­fer­ently to­ward trade — a lot dif­fer­ently to­ward trade.’ — Pres­i­dent Trump, on bid for China to use in­flu­ence to rein in North Korea

Philippe Wo­jazer AFP/Getty Im­ages

CHI­NESE LEADER Xi Jin­ping, left, urged re­straint dur­ing a call with Pres­i­dent Trump, warn­ing against acts that could raise ten­sions in the Korean penin­sula.

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