Trump Cautious on China Inquiry Over Intellectual Property Theft

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Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, a popular trade tool in the 1980s that has been rarely used in the past decade, allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions to protect USA industries from "unfair trade practices" of foreign countries.

The trade investigation could strain relations between the US and China as the two countries wrestle with the unpredictable situation over North Korea. "This is simply business".

President Trump plans to call for an investigation into China's intellectual property practices, according to reports Friday.

Trump has been trying for months to get China to exert more pressure on North Korea, but has recently expressed frustration with the lack of progress.

"I am very disappointed in China", he said on July 29 on Twitter.

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The United States has previously complained at the WTO about Chinese trade policies, including its "Made in China 2025" initiative, which seeks to have Chinese-made materials account for 70 percent of manufacturing inputs within the next eight years.

"We will no longer allow this to continue". "They know how I feel", he told reporters on Thursday.

The title of the so-called "301 investigation" that Trump is expected to call for Lighthizer to consider, refers to Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, which authorizes the president to work to remove or retaliate against a practice by a foreign government that is "unjustifiable and burdens or restricts United States commerce".

Trump will instruct his chief trade adviser on Monday to investigate allegations that China violated US intellectual property rights and forced companies to share their technology in order to do business there, Politico reported.

On Saturday, administration officials said the new trade measure was "totally unrelated" to events with North Korea. "This is why the president has chosen to act now and to act boldly", one administration official said.

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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.

Yet analysts said the measure could also backfire, resulting in more hostility and tension between the world's two largest economies at a time when their cooperation is critical to a diplomatic resolution on North Korea. But trade and national security experts widely noted that the trade announcement appeared to have been delayed until after China joined the United States in voting for sanction against North Korea at a United Nations Security Council session on August 5. The vote passed with unanimous support from all 15 member nations, including Russian Federation and China.

Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Friday night, and reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

Several administration officials outlined the highly preliminary trade action to reporters Saturday, suggesting - contrary to Trump's own statements - that trade policy toward China is divorced from any national security concern, including North Korea.

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