President Donald Trump opened the door to penalizing China after he signed a memo directing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider investigating whether China compromised U.S. intellectual property.
Trump signed the memo on Monday and signaled that his latest order was “just the beginning.” According to the Washington Post, Lighthizer will likely investigate China, which could result in the president receiving broad authority to punish what has been portrayed as an economic competitor overseas.
Before signing the memo, Trump framed the move as part of an effort to protect American workers and products:
“We will safeguard the copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and to our prosperity. We will uphold our values, we will defend our workers, and we will protect the innovations, creations, and inventions that power our magnificent country.”
Trump, who called the memo “a very big move,” promised during his 2016 presidential campaign to crack down on Chinese trade practices. While China reportedly denied the allegation that it compromised U.S. intellectual property, U.S. companies and politicians welcomed the decision.