Trump seeks closer look at China trade ac­tions

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Josh Boak and Jonathan Lemire

BED­MIN­STER, N.J.» Even as he seeks Bei­jing’s help on North Korea, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump plans to sign an ex­ec­u­tive or­der ask­ing his trade of­fice to con­sider in­ves­ti­gat­ing China for the al­leged theft of Amer­i­can tech­nol­ogy and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said Sat­ur­day.

That step is ex­pected Mon­day but won’t come as a sur­prise to the Bei­jing gov­ern­ment. There is no dead­line for de­cid­ing if any in­ves­ti­ga­tion is nec­es­sary. Such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion eas­ily could last a year.

In a phone call Fri­day, Trump praised Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping for back­ing the re­cent U.N. vote to im­pose tougher sanc­tions on North Korea, and the lead­ers reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to a nu­clear-free Korean Penin­sula. But Trump also told Xi about the move to­ward a pos­si­ble in­quiry into China’s trade prac­tices, ac­cord­ing to two U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with that con­ver­sa­tion. They were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the pri­vate call and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Trump wants gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to look at Chi­nese prac­tices that force Amer­i­can com­pa­nies to share their in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in or­der to gain ac­cess to the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy. 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.

Trump’s ac­tion amounts to a re­quest that his trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive de­ter­mine whether an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is needed un­der the Trade Act of 1974. If an in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gins, the U.S. gov­ern­ment could seek reme­dies ei­ther through the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion or out­side of it.

Trump, who is on a work­ing va­ca­tion at his New Jer­sey golf club, said Fri­day that he planned to be in Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day “for a very im­por­tant meet­ing” and “we’re go­ing to have a pretty big press con­fer­ence.” It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether he was talk­ing about trade as the sub­ject.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who con­firmed that Trump would sign the or­der con­tended it was un­re­lated to the show­down with North Korea. The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the or­der be­fore Trump’s for­mal an­nounce­ment.

As the cri­sis has un­folded, Trump has al­ter­nated prais­ing China for its help and chid­ing it for not ratch­et­ing up pres­sure on its Asian neigh­bor.

Trump, in the past, has tied trade pol­icy to na­tional se­cu­rity. In April, he said he wouldn’t la­bel China a cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor, in re­turn for help in deal­ing with North Korea. This past week, Trump said he could soften his views on trade if China stepped up its as­sis­tance, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion could be a ne­go­ti­at­ing tac­tic.

The forced shar­ing of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty with Chi­nese firms has been a long-stand­ing con­cern of the U.S. busi­ness com­mu­nity.

A 2013 re­port by a com­mis­sion co-chaired by Jon Hunts­man, am­bas­sador to China un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Trump’s nom­i­nee to be en­voy to Rus­sia, pegged the losses from U.S. in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft at hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars an­nu­ally that cost the U.S. econ­omy mil­lions of jobs.

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