President Donald Trump is expected to consider an investigation Aug. 14 into possible trade violations by China at the same time as the U.S. is leaning on China to help defuse escalating tensions with North Korea.
The Washington Post reported Aug. 12 that the investigation, to be launched by an executive memorandum Trump is expected to sign on Aug. 14, will seek to determine whether China is harming intellectual property, innovation and technology.
"China's been engaged in the theft and forced transfer of U.S. technologies and intellectual property for years," the Post quoted a Trump administration official as saying. "Those activities haven't abated; they've accelerated as China seeks to become self-sufficient in new technologies and dominate world markets."
The Post said the investigation could take as long as a year. Politico reported Aug. 12 that the probe would be launched under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. If the U.S. Trade Representative determines violations have occurred, the U.S. could impose duties on China.
Bloomberg News cautioned that Trump's memo will not direct a full-blown investigation under Section 301, but will examine whether to start one.
Both Bloomberg and the Post reported that over the last couple of decades, since the establishment of the World Trade Organization, the U.S. has brought most of its trade disputes to that venue instead of relying on U.S. law.
A report by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to Congress in July found "widespread infringing activity, including trade secret theft, rampant online piracy and counterfeiting, and high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit exports to markets around the globe" by China, Bloomberg reported.
Separately, an independent commission on U.S. intellectual property determined the annual cost to the U.S. economy of counterfeit goods, pirated software and the theft of trade secrets could run from $225 billion to as much as $600 billion, Bloomberg reported, adding that the commission labeled China as the world's greatest infringer of intellectual property.
This move on trade, which comes after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke late on Aug. 11 in a push to get the Chinese to exert more pressure on North Korea, is broader than a failed attempt earlier this summer to address concerns about Chinese steel dumping in the U.S.