On Monday, August 14, 2017, President Trump signed a memorandum directing the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) to determine whether to initiate a Section 301 investigation of Chinese laws, policies, practices, or actions that may be harming the intellectual property rights of U.S. persons.
In a Section 301 investigation, if the USTR determines that a Chinese act, policy, or practice, (i) violates, or is inconsistent with, the provisions of, or otherwise denies benefits to the United States under, any trade agreement, or (ii) is unjustifiable and burdens or restricts United States commerce, it may take a broad range of actions to address and correct the harm.
Notably, the memorandum signed by the President does not direct the USTR to investigate any specific law, policy, or practice. Rather, it instructs the USTR to determine “whether to investigate” any Chinese laws, policies, practices, or actions. As such, there is no current timeline for the initiation of an investigation or imposition of any remedial actions. USTR Lighthizer has indicated, however, that determining whether to initiate an investigation will be one of his “highest priorities,” and he will “report back to the President as soon as possible.”