WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President DonaldTrumpiscloseto adecisionon how to respond to what he considers Chinas unfairtradepractices, a seniorTrumpadministration official said on Tuesday.
Trumpis considering encouraging U.S.TradeRepresentative Robert Lighthizer to initiate an investigation ofChinesetradepracticesunder the 1974TradeActs section 301, the official said.
An announcement could come as early as this week, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Section 301 of theTradeAct of 1974 allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs or othertraderestrictions to protect U.S. industries from unfairtradepractices of foreign countries, such astradeagreement violations, or discriminatory actions that burden U.S. commerce.
The United States has a long list of grievances about China ontrade, including accusations of steel dumping and theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Trumphas long been a critic ofChinesetradepracticesbut his interest in penalizing Beijing has risen due to his concern at what he perceives to beChineseinaction on reining in increasingly belligerent North Korea.
Chinas Foreign Ministry said this week the North Korean nuclear issue did not arise because of China and that everyone needed to work together to seek a resolution.
Section 301 was used extensively in the 1980s to combat Japanese imports of motorcycles, steel and other products – an era during which Lighthizer served as deputy U.S.traderepresentative (USTR).
But the statute has been little used since the WorldTradeOrganization (WTO) was launched in 1995.
The WTO provides a forum for resolvingtradedisputes, but Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross have complained that this is extremely slow, often taking years to reach a conclusion, and that the Geneva-based organization has an inherent anti-U.S. bias.
(Reporting byy Steve Holland. Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler and Andrew Hay)