-China trading relationship. But analysts have cautioned that Trump faces a huge challenge in his desire to significantly reduce the USA trade deficit with China, which past year stood at more than $300 billion.
An unnamed White House official told Politico the President was likely to order a Section 301 investigation under the 1974 Trade Act. "But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade - a lot differently toward trade".
The president's trade action will be a long way from any punitive move against China, despite his and his advisors' open talk of Chinese "theft" and "stealing" of USA companies' intellectual property, which broadly includes technological innovations, film and other artistic products, industrial designs and military secrets.
Officials, speaking to reporters on the Saturday conference call, said their intention was not to punish Beijing but to negotiate an agreement that clawed back some of the estimated $600 billion in intellectual property theft officials estimate is perpetuated by China.
It's unclear whether any actual repercussions for China, like sanctions or tariffs, would come from an investigation like this, and officials said there is no timeline for how long an investigation would take.
Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Friday night, and reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. "It's not going to continue like that", Trump said from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
Both Reuters and CNN reported this week that Trump was planning to call for the investigation to be considered earlier this month but that the president waited until after a United Nations Security Council vote to impose new sanctions on North Korea. They said that US companies had long suffered because of Chinese intellectual property violations, and that they expected Congress and the business community to support the measure.
In addition to the United States, the European Union, Japan, Germany and Canada have all expressed concern about China's behaviour on intellectual property theft. "They should not be forced to turn over the fruits of their labor". -China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan group created by Congress in 2000 to monitor trade and security issues between the world's two largest economies.
In the conference call, officials did not rule out working with the WTO or other countries to penalize Chinese intellectual property violations, saying that the portions of USA trade law they are relying on, Sections 301 and 302 of the 1974 trade law, allow them to take a broad range of actions.
Trade experts and business leaders said the new investigation into intellectual property could be a sign that the trade agenda is shifting into the hands of United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, a respected negotiator who helped implement some of the most protectionist trade policies of recent decades during the Reagan administration. Though widely used worldwide, the WTO process is viewed unfavorably by the Trump administration.
"This is a critical action, and long overdue", said Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.