President Donald Trump said the United States is considering a big “fine” as part of a probe into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property, the clearest indication yet that his administration will take retaliatory trade action against China, Reuters reports.
In an interview with the news agency on Wednesday, Trump and his economic adviser Gary Cohn said the China has forced US companies to transfer their intellectual property to China as a cost of doing business there.
The US has started a trade investigation into the issue, and Cohn said the US Trade Representative would be making recommendations about it soon.
“We have a very big intellectual property potential fine going, which is going to come out soon,” Trump said in the interview.
While Trump did not specify what he meant by a “fine” against China, the 1974 trade law that authorized an investigation into China’s alleged theft of US intellectual property allows him to impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods or other trade sanctions until China changes its policies, Reuters said.
Trump said the damages could be high, without elaborating on how the numbers were reached or how the costs would be imposed.
“We’re talking about big damages. We’re talking about numbers that you haven’t even thought about,” he said.
US businesses say they lose hundreds of billions of dollars in technology and millions of jobs to Chinese firms which have stolen ideas and software or forced them to turn over intellectual property as part of the price of doing business in China.
The president said he wants the US to have a good relationship with China, but Beijing needs to treat the US fairly.
Trump said he will be announcing some kind of action against China over trade and said he will discuss the issue during his State of the Union address to the US Congress on Jan. 30.
Asked about the potential for a trade war depending on US action over steel, aluminum and solar panels, Trump said he hopes a trade war would not ensue.
“I don’t think so, I hope not. But if there is, there is,” he said.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said there are no laws in China to force foreign investors to transfer technology, but acknowledged such things may happen as part of “market behavior” between companies working with each other.
“There is absolutely no government meddling in these actions,” Lu told a daily news briefing on Thursday.
“At the same time, I want to stress that China will resolutely protect its legitimate rights,” he added, without elaborating.
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