WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s trade chief on Friday formally launched an investigation into Chinese efforts to secure technology and Beijing’s treatment of intellectual property.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he notified Mr. Trump Friday that he would launch the probe, which could result in trade sanctions. He made the announcement just four days after Mr. Trump directed Mr. Lighthizer to look into the matter.
“After consulting with stakeholders and other government agencies, I have determined that these critical issues merit a thorough investigation,” Mr. Lighthizer said in a statement.
In addition to probing Chinese efforts to obtain U.S. technology and intellectual property, the investigation under Section 301 of a 1974 trade law will also look into whether Beijing supports cyberintrusion to obtain trade secrets or technology in ways that harm American companies, the trade representative’s office said.
The case is the first formal China trade action taken by a president who has long blasted the country for what he says are improper commercial practices. On Monday as he signed the directive, Mr. Trump said: “This is just the beginning.”
White House aides said the probe could run for a year before any decisions are made on imposing trade sanctions.
The move is part of a broader, complex diplomatic strategy of juggling Washington’s competing policy goals with China, balancing the desire for more cooperation in controlling North Korea against a desire to curb the $347 billion U.S. trade deficit with China.
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