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Trump to request possible probe of China trade practices

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Even as he seeks Beijing’s help on North Korea, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order asking his trade office to consider investigating China for the alleged theft of American technology and intellectual property, an administration official said Saturday.

That step is expected Monday but won’t come as a surprise to the Beijing government. There is no deadline for deciding if any investigation is necessary. Such an investigation easily could last a year.

In a phone call Friday, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for backing the recent U.N. vote to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea, and the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. But Trump also told Xi about the move toward a possible inquiry into China’s trade practices, according to two U.S. officials familiar with that conversation. They were not authorized to publicly discuss the private call and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump wants government officials to look at Chinese practices that force American companies to share their intellectual property in order to gain access to the world’s second largest economy. Many U.S. businesses must create joint ventures with Chinese companies and turn over valuable technology assets, a practice that Washington says stifles U.S. economic growth.

Trump’s action amounts to a request that his trade representative determine whether an investigation is needed under the Trade Act of 1974. If an investigation begins, the U.S. government could seek remedies either through the World Trade Organization or outside of it.

China’s foreign and commerce ministries did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment Sunday.

While Beijing has promised to open more industries to foreign companies, it also has issued new rules on electric car manufacturing, data security,…

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