leader that he’s preparing to order an investigation into Chinese trade
practices next week, a senior administration official told CNN.
Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday to begin the probe into
alleged Chinese violations of U.S. intellectual property rights, the
for Trump to impose tariffs against Chinese imports, which would mark a
significant escalation in his efforts to reshape the trade relationship
between the world’s two largest economies.
Trump’s call with Xi and his plans to open the broad trade investigation come against the backdrop of rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
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 U.N. sanctions against North Korea, the
senior administration official said.
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.
The trade investigation could strain relations between the
U.S. and China as the two countries wrestle with the unpredictable
situation over North Korea. Pyongyang this week threatened to fire missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam during an exchange of bellicose rhetoric with Trump.
“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.
It wasn’t immediately clear how China would react to the move.
When reports of the potential trade investigation first emerged more
than a week ago, China’s Commerce Ministry stressed the importance of
U.S.-China trade ties and of resolving differences “through dialogue and
“We would like to emphasize that the
Chinese government has always attached importance to intellectual
property protection,” a spokesman said. “The results are there for all
Trump, who has been residing at his golf club in
Bedminster, New Jersey, for the past week, plans to return to Washington
on Monday to officially announce the trade investigation.
The decision will not only take action against alleged Chinese
violations of U.S. companies’ intellectual property rights, but could
also be perceived as an attempt by the U.S. government to crank up the
pressure on Beijing to rein in North Korea.
“I think China can do a lot more,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “And I think China will do a lot more.”
But experts say China, which accounts for around 90% of North Korea’s
foreign trade, is unwilling to squeeze Kim’s regime hard enough to make
it give up on its nuclear program because that would risk the chaotic
collapse of a state that Beijing wants to keep as a strategic buffer.
The trade investigation is expected to be only one part of a
multi-pronged push by the Trump administration to counter perceived
Chinese trade abuses, which Trump frequently railed against as a
The administration has been eyeing other
moves to rebalance the U.S.-China trading relationship. But analysts
have cautioned that Trump faces a huge challenge in his desire to
significantly reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China, which last year
stood at more than $300 billion.
against some specific items, such as steel and aluminum, may gain
political favors, but are not likely to be of much help to rebalance
trade,” economists at the Institute of International Finance wrote in a
research note this week.