Tue Aug 15, 2017 06:32AM
A file photo of the national flags of the US (L) and China (By Reuters)
A file photo of the national flags of the US (L) and China (By Reuters)

China warns it will “not sit idle” and will take “all appropriate measures” to protect its interests in the face of possible US sanctions after President Donald Trump ordered a probe into trade ties with Beijing.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, expressing “serious concern” over the order and insisting that the government would “definitely adopt all appropriate measures to vigorously defend the lawful rights and interest of China.”

“If the US side ignores the facts, and disrespects multilateral trade principles in taking actions that harms both sides trade interests, China will absolutely not sit by and watch, will inevitably adopt all appropriate measures, and resolutely safeguard China’s lawful rights,” said the statement posted on the ministry’s official website.

It further underlined that any US trade protectionism “will definitely harm bilateral trade relations.” However, it did not elaborate on potential retaliatory measures.

The development came after Trump signed a memorandum on Monday, directing US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to find whether Chinese policies are harmful to American investors or companies.

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Lighthizer, according to press reports, will have a year to decide whether to launch a formal investigation into Beijing’s policies on intellectual property, which Washington and American industry groups say are harming US businesses and jobs.

The outcome of the probe could lead to sanctions or other trade restrictions against Beijing.

US President Donald Trump displays a memorandum on addressing China’s laws, policies, practices, and actions related to intellectual property, innovation, and technology after signing it at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

During the signing event, the US president emphasized that “Washington will turn a blind eye no longer” to Beijing’s “theft” of US industrial secrets, a longstanding concern of foreign-based corporations seeking a share of the massive Chinese market.

The corporations complain that Beijing forces them to hand over technology as the price of doing business in China.

US administration officials have claimed that China’s “theft” of intellectual property could be worth as much as $600 billion.

Trump’s remarks came amid heightened tensions over North Korea in recent weeks. Washington and Pyongyang have exchanged a series of military threats.

Last month, Trump took to Twitter to criticize China’s stance on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, saying, “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk.”

Beijing, however, called on Washington not to politicize bilateral trade ties. It said its trade ties with the US and North Korea’s nuclear program are two unrelated issues and “should not be discussed together.”