U.S. reportedly plans trade action over Chinese theft of intellectual property

The Trump administration is reportedly considering using rarely invoked U.S. trade laws to compel China to crack down on theft of copyrights, patents and other intellectual property and fend off technology-sharing demands from Beijing.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Wednesday that U.S. trade officials are discussing ways to counter piracy and other practices deemed harmful to American businesses.

The reports come as the administration signals a harsher stance on trade than in its first six months.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in a commentary in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, outlined a slew of grievances against both China and the European Union that he said contributed to the U.S. trade deficit in goods of $725.5 billion in 2016 — $347 billion of which was with China.

“Both China and Europe also bankroll their exports through grants, low-cost loans, energy subsidies, special value-added tax refunds and below-market real estate sales, among other means,” Ross wrote.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times stories said U.S. officials are looking into using Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, which would allow Washington to launch an investigation into China’s trade practices and, within months, raise tariffs on imports from China or impose other sanctions.

The administration also is considering how to resist technology-sharing demands from Beijing as part of its ambitious Made in China 2025 program, a blueprint for making China a leader in advanced technologies such as autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, robotics and other industries.

Foreign companies have long complained over rampant piracy and technology theft by Chinese companies. Though he has at times sought a more conciliatory approach, President Donald Trump also has lambasted China over such problems and over the massive U.S. trade deficit with China.

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