Hardline Trump U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday in testimony on Capitol Hill that a deal with China must not only include more Chinese purchases of U.S. products but enforcement. There have been recent reports that Lighthizer is unhappy with Trump’s willingness to make a deal with the Chinese without extracting strong enough terms. White House officials have downplayed the reported tensions.
“We can compete with anyone in the world, but we must have rule, enforced rules, that make sure market outcomes and not state capitalism and technology theft determine winners,” Lighthizer said in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
“Let me be clear,” Lighthizer testified. “Much still needs to be done both before an agreement is reached and, more importantly, after it is reached, if one is reached.”
After the December G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, China took a step that conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute — which for years has been sounding alarms about IP theft by China — described as significant, when the Chinese government issued a memo that set out some 38 punishments for IP violators, including denial of access to government funding.
“The mere publication of the memo (which explicitly referred to American complaints) was an important concession: Until quite recently the Chinese government had officially denied that significant IP theft occurred in China,” AEI’s Claude Barfield wrote in a blog post. But the issues are complicated by, among other things, blurred lines between cyber espionage committed by the Chinese government against corporate and military targets and the passing on of those secrets to Chinese companies.
There are no exact statistics on trade secret theft ranked by nation, but China remains the world’s principal IP infringer across all types of IP theft, according to a spokesman for the IP Commission, and he noted that Chinese citizens are prosecuted most frequently in U.S. courts for trade secret theft.
Cases of IP theft in recent years brought by the U.S. government against Chinese employees of U.S. firms and Chinese intelligence officers have involved large companies including Apple, IBM and GE.