Trump pressures China to change its trade practices

President Trump signed two executive orders Monday to open an inquiry into China's trade policies and issues of intellectual property theft in China.
By Kara Menard | Aug 18, 2017
President Trump signed two executive orders Monday to open an inquiry into China's trade policies and issues of intellectual property theft in China. He cited the memos afterward in a speech pledging to protect the U.S. workforce and to step up pressure on China.
"This is just the beginning," Trump said at the White House. "We will defend our workers."
The two executive orders direct the U.S. trade representative, Robert Lightizer, to determine whether there should be a formal investigation into Chinese trade practices and Chinese theft of intellectual property. Trump said that the intellectual property theft alone is costing the United States "billions of dollars" per year.

Trump is not alone in making these claims. Many U.S. analysts have accused China of gaining proprietary information on U.S.-made software and other products through spying and hacking, and one report estimated that Chinese procurement of these proprietary secrets costs the U.S. economy up to $600 billion annually.

If Lightizer approves an investigation and the investigation determines that China is guilty of unfair trade practices, Trump could seek remedies through the World Trade Organization or another outside body. The executive orders do not spell out any action besides the investigation that Trump will take against China.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) panned the orders' limited scope as "tough talk on China, but weaker action than anyone could ever imagine." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) concurred, stating that the orders were "far short of the comprehensive action American workers need."

Trump took flak a month ago for effusively praising Chinese President Xi Jinping while turning a blind eye to the Chinese government's crackdowns on dissidents. But Monday's executive orders came about amid rising tension over North Korea and Trump's stated frustrations with China, whom he said should be doing more to help rein in North Korea's weapons development.

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