China says US trade probe would violate international rules

China has sharply criticised Donald Trump's demand for an investigation into whether it is improperly obtaining foreign technology and said it will "resolutely safeguard" Beijing's interests.

The commerce ministry said the US president's order on Monday violates international trade agreements, and vowed Beijing will take action if Chinese companies are hurt.

Mr Trump ordered American trade officials to look into whether Beijing improperly requires foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to Chinese markets.

The Chinese commerce ministry criticised it as "strong unilateralism" that violates the spirit of international trade agreements.

"If the US side disregards the fact it does not respect multilateral trade rules and takes action to damage the economic and trade relations between the two sides, then the Chinese side will never sit back and will take all appropriate measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese side," the ministry said.

Mr Trump said in April he was setting aside disputes over market access and currency while Washington and Beijing worked together to persuade North Korea to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons technology.

But American officials have resumed criticising Chinese policy in recent weeks.

"We believe the US side should strictly adhere to commitments and should not become the destroyer of multilateral rules," the commerce ministry said.

Before Monday's announcement, the Chinese foreign ministry had appealed to Mr Trump to avoid a "trade war".

Beijing requires carmakers and other foreign companies in China to work through joint ventures, usually with state-owned partners.

They are often required to give technology to partners that might become competitors.

More than 20% of 100 American companies that responded to a survey by the US-China Business Council, an industry group, said they were asked to transfer technology within the past three years as a condition of market access, according to Jake Parker, the group's vice president for China operations.

"We don't believe market access should be contingent on transferring technology," he said. "It goes counter to China's WTO (World Trade Organisation) commitments."

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