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China warns of retaliation as Trump launches trade probe

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping

Beijing, China | AFP | Trade tensions between the United States and China heated up on Tuesday as Beijing warned that it “will not sit idle” if a US probe into its intellectual property practices leads to sanctions.

President Donald Trump’s decision to order the investigation comes on top of strains between the two nations over how to handle Beijing’s ally North Korea.

Trump on Monday signed a memorandum directing US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether Chinese policies hurt American investors or companies — with retaliatory measures a possible outcome.

“We will stand up to any country that unlawfully forces American companies to transfer their valuable technology as a condition of market access. We will combat the counterfeiting and piracy that destroys American jobs,” Trump said.

“Washington will turn a blind eye no longer,” Trump said, vowing to safeguard copyrights, patents and other intellectual property that are “vital to our security and to our prosperity”.

The president said the US would no longer tolerate Beijing’s “theft” of US industrial secrets, long a concern of major foreign corporations seeking a share of the huge Chinese market.

“We will engage in a thorough investigation and, if needed, take action to preserve the future of US industry,” Lighthizer said.

China’s commerce ministry issued a statement voicing “serious concern” and warning that any US trade protectionism “will definitely harm bilateral trade relations”.

“If the US side take actions that impair the mutual trade relations, disregarding the facts and disrespecting multilateral trade rules, China will not sit idle,” the statement said.

The ministry said the country “is definitely going to adopt all appropriate measures to vigorously defend the lawful rights and interest of China.”

The United States is China’s second-largest trading partner after the European Union, but Washington and Beijing have seen their relations grow increasingly fraught since a promising summit between Trump and China’s Xi Jinping in April.

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