United States President Donald Trump will call tomorrow for his chief trade adviser to investigate China's intellectual property (IP) practices, website Politico reported, citing an unnamed administration official.
If China is found to be flouting the rules on USA intellectual property, the administration has a range of options, including imposing import tariffs, said the administration officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
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 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.
It may also prove to be a source of leverage to push China to do more to help contain a rising security threat from North Korea, which counts Beijing as its only powerful ally.
The trade investigation could strain relations between the US and China as the two countries wrestle with the unpredictable situation over North Korea.
The announcement expected Monday comes amid sharply escalating tensions, with Trump warning that USA military options are "locked and loaded" if North Korean President Kim Jong-Un acts unwisely.
Still, Trump's actions stop short of what some analysts had been expecting him to do on intellectual property. They added that the trade measure would be carried out under the rules of global law and would not trigger greater conflict with China.
The goal of this memorandum is to ensure American companies and workers are not subject to harmful policies by China in relation to intellectual property and to ensure that America continues to maintain its leadership in technology, an official stated.
Such thefts not only damage American companies, but also pose a threat to the United States national security, the second official said.
It further complicates the already taut U.S. "Those activities haven't abated; they've accelerated as China seeks to become self-sufficient in new technologies and dominate world markets", he said.
The official, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that he doesn't believe this will lead to a period of conflict between the US and China, adding, "this is simply business between two countries".
The administration is likely eager to make progress on trade, one of Trump's biggest campaign issues, after a recent series of legislative setbacks, trade experts said.
The results of three separate investigations into trade deficits and the national security threats posed by imports of steel and aluminum, initially expected by the end of June, have yet to appear. That statement didn't mention the executive action, but said the leaders discussed North Korea policy and Trump's visit to China later this year. Instead, he is leading the administration is dusting off a variety of powerful and unilateral measures under US trade law, many of which the United States stopped using after the creation of the WTO, which has its own mechanisms to settle trade disputes. Lighthizer can do so under Section 302 (b) of the Trade Act of 1974, which outlines the process by which USTR can initiate an investigation "by means other than petition", a senior official told reporters on August 12. "And I think China will do a lot more".
"We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. It's not going to continue like that", he said.