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August 21, 2017

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Trump to seek probe of US-China trade emphasizing alleged IP theft

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump next week will order his trade representative to look into whether an investigation into China's alleged theft of US intellectual property is warranted, US officials said on Saturday.

Trump will sign an executive memorandum on Monday directing US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether the probe should be launched, officials said in a conference call with reporters.

Trump plans to return to Washington from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, to sign the executive memorandum, the officials said.

They said an investigation into China's trade practices has long been expected, noting the particular emphasis on alleged intellectual property (IP) theft.

The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property says that China is the world's principal intellectual property infringer. The commission estimates US companies lose 255 billion dollars annually through counterfeit goods, pirated software and IP theft.

Trump has consistently raised issues over what he has called China's "unfair" trade practices, including during last year's presidential campaign. But stakes are higher now as he works with Chinese President Xi Jinping to defuse tensions with North Korea over its ballistic and nuclear weapons programmes.

Pyongyang this week threatened to fire missiles that it said would land near the US territory of Guam, an island in the Pacific Ocean.

Trump recently expressed frustration with China, North Korea's main trading partner, over a lack of progress on reining in Pyongyang's nuclear aspirations.

Officials who briefed reporters on Saturday denied the investigation into alleged IP theft and North Korea's weapons programmes were related.

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