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US plans trade probe over China’s demands for tech transfers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Frustrated over China’s inability to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program, the Trump administration is weighing plans to punish China for failing to crack down on intellectual property thefts and forcing U.S. and foreign companies to share their technology in return for access to the vast Chinese market.

That’s according to two people familiar with the discussion, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been made public.

The administration is considering invoking the rarely used Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which empowers Washington to investigate Chinese trade practices and impose sanctions, including tariffs, within months, according to one of those people.

The investigation would focus on China’s alleged forced technology transfer policies and practices, one of the people said, adding that the Trump administration could move to launch such a probe this week. The second person cautioned that no decisions or timelines had been finalized yet.

U.S. and other Western governments and business groups accuse Beijing of unfairly nurturing Chinese competitors – in fields ranging from medical equipment to renewable energy to electric cars – by requiring foreign firms to hand over proprietary technologies in exchange for being allowed to operate in China.

American companies have long complained that Chinese competitors steal their technology and use it to compete against them. Being forced to hand over technology to gain access to the Chinese market adds to the risk.

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