Trump White House to look into China's trade practices

  • Trump White House to look into China's trade practices

Trump White House to look into China's trade practices

"I don't think we're heading toward a period of greater conflict (with China)", said one White House official.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Friday night.

Despite Trump's previous comments, officials at the briefing repeatedly rebuffed any attempt by reporters to connect the possible investigation to the North Korea situation.

Trump's call with Xi and his potential plans to open the broad trade investigation come against the backdrop of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

President Trump plans to get tougher on trade with China.

Such thefts not only damage American companies, but also pose a threat to the U.S. national security, the second official said.

Still, Trump's actions stop short of what some analysts had been expecting him to do on intellectual property. Trump made addressing the USA trade deficit with China a centerpiece of his campaign previous year and has suggested raising tariffs on goods from China. "This is why the president has chosen to act now and to act boldly", one administration official said. -China Economic and Security Review Commission, called the measure "a critical action, and long overdue".

If the investigation finds that China is harming US companies, the Trump administration could respond by imposing tariffs, negotiating an agreement with China, or other measures, the officials said.

In a background briefing with reporters on Saturday, White House officials pointed to frustration from US businesses that they have to share intellectual property with China as a condition for doing business in the country. "Those activities haven't abated; they've accelerated as China seeks to become self-sufficient in new technologies and dominate world markets", he said. While Trump officially withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Obama-era trade deal, and will begin talks next week to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, other planned trade measures have been slow to materialize.

At the end of March, Trump asked the Commerce Department to prepare a report on the causes of the trade deficit, country by country and product by product, in 90 days. Meanwhile, 100 days of trade talks with the Chinese carried out in past months resulted in a few trade gains but not the ambitious changes the administration had hoped for.

Trump planned to launch the trade investigation more than a week ago, but he delayed the move in favor of securing China's support for expanded United Nations sanctions against North Korea, the senior administration official said.

Should an investigation find wrongdoing, Trump could impose tariffs against Chinese imports, which would mark a significant escalation in his efforts to reshape the trade relationship between the world's two largest economies.

Used frequently during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the law allows the USA president to impose tariffs and other measures to force open export markets.

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

The statement Friday does not mention any specific actions China would be willing to take, although some Chinese scholars and state media have called on Beijing to take on a shuttle diplomacy role to facilitate talks between the USA and North Korea.

Kennedy of CSIS says business leaders express a range of opinions, depending on how much they discrimination they face in China and how key Chinese profits are to their business. "It's not going to continue like that", he said.