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Trump weighing major 'fine' on China for intellectual property theft

Trump weighing major 'fine' on China for intellectual property theft
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE said Wednesday the U.S. government is considering fining China for alleged intellectual property theft, a sign the president is readying aggressive trade actions against Beijing.

“We have a very big intellectual property potential fine going, which is going to come out soon,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters.

Trump said the penalties could be large, but did not offer a specific number.

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“We’re talking about big damages,” the president said. “We’re talking about numbers that you haven’t even thought about.”

The comments come amid a trade investigation initiated by Trump into accusations of intellectual property theft.

The administration is also looking into a practice that forces U.S. companies to transfer intellectual property to China in order to do business there, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn told Reuters.

American businesses claim to have lost billions of dollars to Chinese firms because of the practice.

The U.S. trade representative is expected to make a recommendation soon.

Trump did not elaborate on his threat of a fine, but a U.S. law allows the president to impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods or other penalties unless Beijing changes course.

Trump was elected to office in 2016 on a promise to get tough on China, which he said has taken advantage of the U.S. on trade for decades.

The businessman-turned-politician pledged during the campaign to slap tariffs on Chinese goods and declare the country a currency manipulator.

But thus far a trade war with China has not materialized. Trump has said he is holding off aggressive action against China in an effort to persuade President Xi Jinping to enforce sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program.

That stance could change soon.

The president said he would speak about trade during his State of the Union address on Jan. 30 and announce actions against China beforehand.

Trump said he wants to maintain a good relationship with China, but stressed that the country must treat the U.S. fairly.

“I don’t think so, I hope not,” the president said when asked about the potential for a trade war. “But if there is, there is.”