China says it will "resolutely safeguard" its economic interests if the United States investigates China's possible theft of American intellectual property.
Intellectual property includes inventions that are creatively produced, such as designs or technology.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed what is called a presidential memorandum about the issue on Monday. The document directs the Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to investigate whether China has been illegally taking American intellectual property. The investigation will take as long as one year.
On Tuesday, China's Ministry of Commerce warned the United States that China will not "sit by and watch" if the United States ignores international trade rules.
Trump wants trade officials to look into the Chinese requirements for American companies to do business in China.
He said the United States will "stand up to any country that unlawfully forces American companies to transfer their valuable technology" in order to do business there.
Intellectual property owners have the right to sell their inventions to make money and competitors are barred from copying those inventions. However, if that intellectual property is stolen, the owners can lose money because other companies can make illegal versions of their product.
"For too long this wealth has been drained from our country while Washington has done nothing," Trump said. "As president of the United States, it is my duty and responsibility to protect the American worker's technology and industry from unfair and abusive actions."
If the United States finds wrongdoing, it could ask the World Trade Organization to punish China or look for other solutions.
Patrick Chovanec is the chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management, which is based in New York. He said the theft of international property by China has been happening for a long time.
He said, in the past, China was unwilling to negotiate about intellectual property theft. However, Trump will need to decide, after the investigation ends, if he wants to seek trade restrictions.
Chovanec said that, in the past, sanctions have caused China to react with similar measures.
Before Trump signed the order, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying released a warning on Monday. Hua said Trump's action could lead to a trade war in which "both sides will be the losers."
Trump has criticized the U.S. trade deficit with China, which was $347 billion in 2016.
Trump has suggested that he would reduce criticism of China if the country did more to control North Korea and its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
China said on Monday that it is banning imports of coal, iron ore, seafood and other products from North Korea. The move is required by new United Nations Security Council sanctions. The sanctions are aimed at cutting North Korea's yearly export income by $1 billion.
I'm Mario Ritter.
And I'm Olivia Liu.
Ken Bredemeier reported this story for VOA News. Olivia Liu adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
resolutely – adv. firmly, with resolve
transfer –v. to cause something to be moved from one place to another
drained – v. to slowly disappear
sanctions – n. punishment meant to force a country to obey international law
ballistic missile – n. a missile able to strike targets at great distances
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