Brown, Portman support China trade investigation

News Brown, Portman support China trade investigation


Even as he seeks Beijing’s help on North Korea, President Donald Trump asked his trade office on Monday to consider investigating China for the alleged theft of American technology and intellectual property.

Trump, in the midst of a 17-day vacation, left his New Jersey golf club to return to the White House to sign an executive action on the probe. He suggested that more steps would be taken against China on trade issues.

“This is just the beginning – I want to tell you that,” Trump said. “This is just the beginning.”

There is no deadline for deciding if any investigation is necessary. Such an investigation easily could last a year.

“I applaud the Trump administration’s continued efforts to protect American jobs and ensure trade is fair for American businesses and workers. When the rules of the road are followed, U.S. businesses and workers can compete with anyone in the world,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from the Cincinnati, said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland also supported the action, and called on the administration to take action on Chinese steel overcapacity.

“When China cheats our trade laws, Ohio workers pay the price,” Brown said in a statement. “I look forward to working with President Trump and his administration to reset our trade relationship with China so it works better for American workers and manufacturers.”

In a phone call Friday, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for backing the recent U.N. vote to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea, and the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. But Trump also told Xi about the move toward a possible inquiry into China’s trade practices, according to two U.S. officials familiar with that conversation. They were not authorized to publicly discuss the private call and spoke on condition of anonymity.

China announced Monday it will cut off imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ore and other goods in three weeks under U.N. sanctions imposed against Pyongyang.

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. Many U.S. businesses must create joint ventures with Chinese companies and turn over valuable technology assets, a practice that Washington says stifles U.S. economic growth.

Trump’s action amounts to a request that his trade representative determine whether an investigation is needed under the Trade Act of 1974. If an investigation begins, the U.S. government could seek remedies either through or outside of the World Trade Organization.

While Beijing has promised to open more industries to foreign companies, it also has issued new rules on electric-car manufacturing, data security, internet censorship and other fields.

The forced sharing of intellectual property with Chinese firms has been a long-standing concern of the U.S. business community.

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