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North Korea sanctions

Trump delays plan to pursue trade measures against China after it backed tough North Korea sanctions

China, which holds a veto on the security council and is North Korea’s biggest ally and trade partner, backed tough UN sanctions in a bid to spur dialogue

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 11:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 August, 2017, 5:35pm

US President Donald Trump plans to wait at least a week and possibly longer on moving forward with a trade investigation of China on intellectual property violations after the country backed UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea, an administration official said.

Trump and his advisers remain concerned over what the US perceives as Chinese violations of intellectual property and the plan for a trade investigation is still under consideration, the official said. But the White House wants to encourage and reward China’s cooperation on North Korea and is balancing national security concerns against domestic economic considerations, the official said.

He is likely to wait at least until the end of his working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, in late August before taking any further steps on an investigation, the official said.

A decision on the probe was widely expected to be announced last Friday.

Citing unnamed sources last week, Politico said the trade action had been “postponed” without a new date. CNBC said the US agriculture lobby pressured US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to hold back as soybeans are one of the US’s biggest exports to China. Moreover, China agreed last month to open its markets to American rice for the first time.

The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved measures to restrict North Korea’s exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood. The Trump administration has threatened military action if necessary to stop North Korea from obtaining an intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike the US with a nuclear weapon.

China, which holds a veto on the security council and is North Korea’s biggest ally and trade partner, backed the sanctions in a bid to spur dialogue. It has urged North Korea to halt future ballistic missile and nuclear tests, while also calling on the US and South Korea to cease military exercises.

Trump commended China and Russia for their support, saying he “appreciates” their votes.

The administration has been considering having the US Trade Representative’s office open an investigation of China’s treatment of intellectual property under the authority of section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which allows the president to impose tariffs on foreign products or discriminatory restrictions on American commerce.

The investigation would focus on allegations that China has violated US intellectual property amid growing concern that it’s trying to become a world leader in technologies such as microchips and electric cars. 

Watch: UN imposes tough new sanctions on North Korea

In a report to lawmakers last month, the USTR accused China of engaging in “widespread infringing activity, including trade secret theft, rampant online piracy and counterfeiting, and high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit exports to markets around the globe.”

The administration earlier this year opened an investigation into whether steel and aluminium imports represent a security threat, invoking the seldom-used section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which allows the government to investigate whether imports damage the country’s national security. Trump hasn’t yet announced any action on that probe, though China is a heavy producer of the products.