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U.S. launches WTO complaint, accuses China of stealing patents

U.S. President Donald Trump, surrounded by business leaders and administration officials, prepares to sign a memorandum on intellectual property tariffs on high-tech goods from China, at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 22, 2018.

JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

The United States launched a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization on Friday, part of a package of trade measures announced by President Donald Trump on Thursday over China's alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property.

A presidential memorandum signed by Trump will target up to $60-billion in Chinese goods with tariffs, but only after a 30-day consultation period that starts once a list is published.

The WTO complaint was widely expected as the tariffs come under a U.S. law which requires a simultaneous legal challenge at the global trade body.

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China, which dismisses Trump's allegations, has said it is ready to retaliate against U.S. imports.

"China appears to be breaking WTO rules by denying foreign patent holders, including U.S. companies, basic patent rights to stop a Chinese entity from using the technology after a licensing contract ends," the U.S. Trade Representative's office said in a statement.

"China also appears to be breaking WTO rules by imposing mandatory adverse contract terms that discriminate against and are less favourable for imported foreign technology," it said.

Such policies interfered with foreign technology holders' ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related contracts, it said.

China's ambassador to the WTO told Reuters on Thursday that China was ready for the U.S. move, and would challenge it at the WTO.

The U.S. tariffs aimed at China's intellectual property policies follow two other major trade actions by Trump, with worldwide tariffs on solar panels and on steel and aluminium.

China's commerce ministry said on Friday that the country was planning measures against up to $3-billion of U.S. imports to balance the steel and aluminium tariffs, with a list of 128 U.S. products that could be targeted.

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