Trump has suggested that he would go easier on China if it were more forceful in getting North Korea to rein in its nuclear weapons program. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the private call.
It was not immediately clear whether his trade dispute with Beijing would be the subject.
The latest step follows the opening by the Trump administration of several other investigations into Chinese commercial practices, notably in the steel sector. "An important question going forward will be whether USA companies and trade associations who have highlighted the problem will actually come forward and assist our government in the investigation or whether they will hide the facts, fearful that our government won't follow through, that the Chinese will retaliate against their interests or that they'll have to admit what's happened to their critical assets". Many U.S. businesses must create joint ventures with Chinese companies and turn over valuable technology assets, a practice that Washington says stifles U.S. economic growth.
U.S. officials will particularly examine the role of joint ventures, the mixed foreign-and-Chinese companies whose establishment is required for any outside business wishing to sell its products in China.
The administration official who confirmed that Trump would sign the order contended it was unrelated to the showdown with North Korea. "They know how I feel", Mr Trump told reporters last Thursday.
The administration probably is eager to make progress on trade, one of Trump's biggest campaign issues, after a recent series of legislative setbacks, trade experts said. During that call, Trump and Xi agreed that North Korea must stop its "provocative and escalatory behavior" and reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, according to a White House statement.
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They added that the trade measure would be carried out under the rules of global law and would not trigger greater conflict with China. Xi, in his phone conversation with Trump, urged calm.
Sun said there were two kinds of Taiwanese products that could be hurt by possible trade sanctions, the most obvious being goods assembled in China before they are shipped to the U.S. In April, he said he wouldn't label China a currency manipulator, in return for help in dealing with North Korea.
"The United States government can, and does, work with countries to address serious concerns such as North Korea while also pursuing measures to address economic concerns, such as the theft of U.S. intellectual property", a U.S. National Security Council official said.
Trump will direct U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine if an investigation is warranted of "any of China's laws, policies, practices or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory, and that may be harming American intellectual property, innovation and technology", the official said. He said it would be premature to speculate on actions that could eventually be taken against China, and added that the issue could be resolved through "negotiated agreement".
At the end of March, Trump asked the Commerce Department to prepare a report on the causes of the trade deficit, country by country and product by product, in 90 days.
A 2013 report by a commission co-chaired by Jon Huntsman, ambassador to China under President Barack Obama and Trump's nominee to be Russian envoy, pegged the losses from United States intellectual property theft at hundreds of billions of dollars annually that cost the USA economy millions of jobs.