Trump signs Russia sanctions, likely to punish China on trade
“While I favour tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilising behaviour by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed,” Trump said in a statement.Updated: Aug 03, 2017, 00:20 IST
US president Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a legislation that imposes new sanctions on Russia and severely limits his ability to roll them back amidst reports his administration was also mulling trade actions against China, which could escalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
The legislation was passed last week by both chambers of Congress with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats, and Trump was expected to sign it despite his reservations, and that of his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, as it ran counter to their intention to work with Moscow, or give it a shot.
“While I favour tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilising behaviour by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed,” Trump said in a statement. “In its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.”
The legislation covers sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, but the part found most objectionable by President Trump was a provision that enjoins him to notify Congress and give it 30 days of advance notice to consider and block any move by him to roll back the Russia sanctions.
In another development, the Trump administration is mulling an investigation into China’s intellectual property rights regime and related market access requirements that could potentially trigger punitive trade measures, which, in turn, is bound to escalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
An announcement was expected this week but could be delayed because of continuing discussions about what will be the administration’s first trade action against China, marking a major shift for President Donald Trump who has sought engagement in sharp contrast to his campaign rhetoric.
The president indicated last week he might have reached the end of his patience with China, as regards its help in reining in North Korea, and complained in a tweet that China makes “hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk”.
The trade action being considered — as first reported by Axios news-site — was an investigation by the US trade representative under Section 301 of the Trade Act for alleged violation of the US intellectual property rights and for forcing foreign companies to transfer technology to their local partners and subsidiaries as a condition for entering China.
It’s a little known trade tool — rarely used since the setting up of the World Trade Organization to resolve trade disputes — that allows the administration to slap duties on imports from countries deemed by the United States to have deployed unfair trade practices.
As a candidate for the White House, Trump had railed against China accusing it of using cheating the US on trade — he went so far as to say it was “raping” the US — and had vowed tough actions against it if elected, including declaring it currency manipulator.
Once elected, however, he displayed a willingness to engage with Beijing and seemed to indicate he was willing to dial down his concerns on trade for cooperation on North Korea, and he had seemed content with Beijing’s response, conceding it had tried though without any success.