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Trump order to look at China’s trade practices

US President Donald Trump will today order his top trade adviser to determine whether to investigate Chinese trade practices, according to senior administration officials.

The move, which could eventually lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods, comes at a time when Trump has asked China to do more to crack down on North Korea’s nuclear missile program as he threatens possible military action against Pyongyang.

Trump has said he would be more amenable to going easy on China if it were more “aggressive” on the North Korea issue.

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.

“These are two different things,” the official told reporters.

Trump will direct US 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.

Any investigation that may be launched could take as long as a year to conclude, a US official said. He said it would be premature to speculate on actions that could eventually be taken against China, and added that the issue could be resolved through “negotiated agreement.”

Trump, who will interrupt a 17-day working vacation to make a day trip to Washington for the trade announcement, had been expected to seek a so-called Section 301 investigation earlier this month, but an announcement was postponed as the White House pressed for China’s cooperation on North Korea.

Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, a 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 US industries from “unfair trade practices” of foreign countries.

The process can bypass World Trade Organization procedures for adjudicating grievances. Though widely used worldwide, the WTO process is viewed unfavorably by the Trump administration.

The imposition of tariffs and other non-tariff trade barriers “will not solve America’s economic problems and probably in the long term will make it worse,” Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a leading China expert, told Xinhua news agency in a recent interview.


 

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