US President Donald Trump today asked his country's top trade official to investigate Chinese trade practices with the focus on intellectual property (IP) and advanced technology, asserting that "unfair" practices by foreign countries harm American businesses.
"The theft of intellectual property by foreign countries costs our nation millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year. For too long, this wealth has been drained from our country while Washington has done nothing," Trump said.
"Today, I'm directing the United States Trade Representative to examine China's policies, practices, and actions with regard to the forced transfers of American technology and the theft of American intellectual property," Trump said as he signed a memorandum in this regard.
"As President of the United States, it's my duty and responsibility to protect the American workers, technology, and industry from unfair and abusive actions," he said.
Trump said his administration will stand up to any country that unlawfully forces American companies to transfer their valuable technology as a condition of market access.
He said the US will combat the counterfeiting and piracy that destroys American jobs and enforce the rules of fair and reciprocal trade that form the foundation of responsible commerce.
"We will protect forgotten Americans who have been left behind by a global trade system that has failed to look -- and I mean look -- out for their interests. They have not been looking out at all," he said.
Trump said the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, is empowered to consider all available options at his disposal.
"We will safeguard the copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and to our prosperity. We will uphold our values, we will defend our workers, and we will protect the innovations, creations, and inventions that power our magnificent country," he said.
Lighthizer said the US has for many years been facing a very serious problem. "China industrial policies and other practices reportedly have forced the transfer of vital US technology to Chinese companies," he alleged.
"We will engage in a thorough investigation and, if needed, take action to preserve the future of US industry. Thousands of jobs are at stake for our workers and for future generations. This will be one of USTR's highest priorities, and we will report back to the President as soon as possible," Lighthizer said.
Top American lawmakers welcomed the move. "I am pleased that President Trump has targeted China's forced technology policies. These practices have unfairly forced American companies to surrender vital intellectual property to their Chinese competitors as the price for doing business," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.
House Ways and Means Committee Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert welcomed Trump in addressing China's forced technology transfer requirements.
"The US economy and so many jobs depend on the strength of our technology companies, including some of our nation's leading tech companies headquartered in my home state of Washington," he said.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi alleged that for years now, China's brazenly unfair trade practices have weakened America's economy and hurt American workers.
Even though President Trump has signed a memo of instruction to the USTR to consider investigating China's unfair intellectual property practices, Pelosi asked the agency to take a series of strong steps including requiring American companies to transfer technology and proprietary information to do business in China.
Pelosi asked USTR to take steps against China's theft of American trade-secrets; China's piracy of other American intellectual property, including software; and market barriers facing US businesses and products in China.
"In addition, the Administration must recognise that challenging China's open intellectual property theft is especially vital now, in light of China's 'Made in China 2025' policy. This policy will not only not only hurt American companies in China, but will make it harder for us to compete globally with Chinese firms," Pelosi said.
"When the rules of the road are followed, US businesses and workers can compete with anyone in the world. I look forward to working with the administration as it begins this 301 investigation, and will continue to work to hold foreign countries accountable when they violate our trade laws," said Senator Robert Portman.
The bipartisan IP Commission welcomed the decision. "The scale of Chinese forced transfer and theft of American intellectual property threatens these interests, both our prosperity and security, and thus US policy must address this set of issues," said Dr Richard Ellings, director of the IP Commission and president of National Bureau of Asian Research.
Senator Charles Schumer, Senate Minority Leader felt that this was a weak action. "President Trump's pattern continues: Tough talk on China, but weaker action than anyone could ever imagine," he said.