“China’s unfair trade practices and industrial policies, including forced technology transfer and intellectual-property theft, harm the U.S. economy and workers,” a second official said. “The action being taken on Monday is a reflection of the President’s firm commitment to addressing this problem in a firm way.”
“President Trump’s pattern continues: Tough talk on China, but weaker action than anyone could ever imagine,” he said in a statement. “To make an announcement that they’re going to decide whether to have an investigation on China’s well-documented theft of our intellectual property is another signal to China that it is okay to keep stealing.”
Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by telephone on Friday and reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, the White House said in a statement. It was unclear whether the issue of trade came up.
In addition to the United States, the European Union, Japan, Germany and Canada have all expressed concern about Chinese theft of intellectual property. The technology sector has been especially hard hit in intellectual-property disputes.
Mr. Trump will direct U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine if an investigation is warranted of “any of China’s laws, policies, practices or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory, and that may be harming American intellectual property, innovation and technology,” the official said.
While China joined in a unanimous UN Security Council decision to tighten economic sanctions on Pyongyang, Mr. Trump has kept up pressure on Beijing to do more.
An administration official, however, insisted diplomacy over North Korea and the potential trade probe were “totally unrelated,” saying the trade action was not a pressure tactic.