President Donald Trump may roll out a long-expected initiative to investigate China's trade practices on Monday, with emphasis on alleged intellectual property theft, two administration sources told NBC News.
Trump had been expected to order a so-called Section 301 investigation under the 1974 Trade Act earlier this month, but action had been postponed as the White House pressed for China's cooperation in reining in North Korea's nuclear programme.
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.
Trump's "reckless" action began Tuesday with his threat to unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang.
"The United States government can, and does, work with countries to address serious concerns such as North Korea while also pursuing measures to address economic concerns, such as the theft of U.S. intellectual property", a U.S. National Security Council official said. "If China helps us, I feel a lot different toward trade".
Since the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established in 1995, the US has not imposed any trade investigations or sanctions based on Section 301 because that kind of unilateral action violates WTO rules requiring trade disputes among its members to be addressed on the WTO platform.
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They said that USA companies had long suffered because of Chinese intellectual-property violations, and that they expected Congress and the business community to support the measure. "The results are there for all to see".
The US is ready along with its allies to apply the full range of diplomatic, economic and military measures to stop the North Korean nuclear menace, President Donald Trump told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Satruday. "What they may not know is that China is also forcing and coercing American companies that operate in China to turn over their technologies".
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.
In an editorial on Saturday, North Korea's Minju Joson newspaper said that the USA "finds itself in an ever worsening dilemma, being thrown into the grip of extreme security unrest by the DPRK".
"Americans are among the most innovative", said one official.
The measure would seek to address what the United States business community has described as flagrant trade violations by China, which employs a variety of rules and practices to wall its market off from foreign competition and pressure U.S. companies to part with valuable product designs and trade secrets - or to steal them outright.