WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order to give the green light to a potential investigation into unfair Chinese trade practices, including the theft of intellectual property, in a move that may eventually lead to tariffs on some imports.
“We will combat the counterfeiting and piracy that destroys American jobs,” Trump said in brief remarks at the White House.
Trump’s approach to trade is being watched closely by the entertainment industry. But Trump’s focus on intellectual property has been on the theft of technology and software, including so-called “forced transfers” of intellectual property as a cost of doing business in the country.
He did not specifically mention piracy of movies and TV shows.
But there are some fears at the studio level that a deteriorating U.S. trade relationship with China could ultimately hinder efforts to expand theatrical releases in the massive market, among other moves.
In Beijing, the official state run newspaper, China Daily, said that the move was a “rash” decision.
“Instead of advancing the United States’ interests, politicizing trade will only acerbate the country’s economic woes, and poison the overall China-U.S. relationship,” the newspaper said.
The paper also objected to Trump connecting Chinese trade practices with its cooperation in trying to put pressure on North Korea as it pursues its nuclear ambitions.
In the executive order, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will examine whether an investigation is warranted, and then will have the authority to pursue one.
“This is just the beginning. I want to tell you that,” Trump said as he signed the order. He was joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
“We will safeguard the copyrights, patents trademarks, trade secrets and other intellectual property that is so vital to our security and our prosperity,” Trump said.
Some groups found Trump’s executive order just a P.R. stunt that doesn’t forcefully address the problem.
Jessica Mackler, the president of the progressive group American Bridge, said that the “Chinese have undertaken job-killing attacks on American competitiveness and all Trump could muster-up in response was a vague request that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. This weak, bureaucratic non-action is the latest proof from Donald Trump that his economic promises were empty lip-service about very real, urgent problems for our country.”
Afterward, Trump was asked why he did not condemn hate groups by name following the clashes in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“I did condemn. They have been condemned,” Trump said.
He also insisted to CNN’s Jim Acosta that the White House held a press conference today, after announcing on Friday that there would be one. Instead, Trump had two interactions with reporters — one earlier in the day when he made a statement condemning the hate groups. He took no questions. And after making his statement on trade, he did answer questions briefly, but also chided Acosta.
“I like real news. Not fake news,” he said. “You’re fake news.”