Section 301 allows the president to impose tariffs or other trade restrictions to protect United States industries from "unfair trade practices" of foreign countries, such as trade agreement violations, or "discriminatory" actions that burden U.S. commerce. The US government might launch a probe into a Chinese intellectual property system, where foreign companies are required to transfer technologies to local subsidiaries and partners.
According to an official speaking with Reuters, Trump is encouraging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer to enact an investigation into Chinese trade under the 1974 Trade Act section 301, which allows the President of the U.S.to apply various restrictions against alleged "unfair trade practices" of other countries, or against countries that engage in "discriminatory" actions that "burden" U.S. interests.
The report comes at a time when the United States is growing increasingly frustrated with increased provocations from North Korea, and with Chinese efforts on sanctions against Pyongyang. Such requirements are seen as an attempt by Beijing to nurture its own competitors in fields from medical equipment to renewable energy to electric cars.
Trump has always been a critic of Chinese trade practices, but his interest in penalising Beijing has risen due to his concern at what he perceives to be Chinese inaction on reining in increasingly belligerent North Korea. But tensions bubbled up last month at a U.S.
In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accused China, as well as Europe, of subsidizing their exports through such means as "grants, low-priced loans, energy subsidies, special value-added tax refunds" and other means.
China says its influence on the isolated state is limited, adding that the North Korea question should not be linked to China-US trade.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times stories also said USA officials were looking into using Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act.
The United States has a long list of grievances against China on trade, including accusations of steel dumping and theft of USA intellectual property.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in a commentary in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, outlined a slew of grievances against both China and the European Union that he said contributed to the global U.S. trade deficit in goods of $725.5 billion in 2016. Though he has at times sought a more conciliatory approach, Trump also has lambasted China over such problems and over the massive US trade deficit.