WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Monday announced a new inquiry into Chinese trade practices, including its alleged theft of U.S. companies’ intellectual property.
“The theft of intellectual property by foreign countries costs our country millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year,” Trump said before signing an order establishing the new initiative. “For too long this wealth has been drained from our country while Washington has done nothing. They have never done anything about it. But Washington will turn a blind eye no longer.”
The memorandum Trump signed on Monday requires U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to launch a review of China’s alleged violations of the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies, as well as its practice of forced technology transfers, in which the country requires companies share their technology in order to gain access to Chinese markets.
Trump said Lighthizer will be able to “consider all available options” during the inquiry, though he was not specific about what repercussions the United States might have for China as a result of Lighthizer’s findings.
“We will safeguard the copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and our prosperity,” Trump said before signing the memorandum at the White House on Monday afternoon. “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 said the investigation is “just the beginning” and that it fulfills a major promise of his campaign, which was in part built on criticizing free trade deals that Trump argues have hurt working class Americans.
“This is what I promised to do as a candidate for this office and this is what I am doing right now as president,” Trump said Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Trump’s announcement as weak, saying China will be able to continue its trade habits unabated while Lightlizer conducts his examination.
“President Trump’s pattern continues: Tough talk on China, but weaker action than anyone could ever imagine,” Schumer said in a statement. “To make an announcement that they’re going to decide whether to have an investigation on China’s well-documented theft of our intellectual property is another signal to China that it is O.K. to keep stealing.”