But trade and national security experts widely noted that the trade announcement appeared to have been delayed until after China joined the United States in voting for sanction against North Korea at a United Nations Security Council session on August 5.
In the conference call, officials did not rule out working with the WTO or other countries to penalize Chinese intellectual property violations, saying that the portions of USA trade law they are relying on, Sections 301 and 302 of the 1974 trade law, allow them to take a broad range of actions.
It was not clear how much detail Trump would provide in his announcement, Politico said, but added that administration officials expected US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open a probe.
Despite Mr. Trump's promises to be tougher than previous presidents on trade, his administration has proceeded with high levels of caution.
The trade investigation could strain relations between the US and China as the two countries wrestle with the unpredictable situation over North Korea. The incredible ascendancy of China as an economic powerhouse over the course of the last decades has now reached a point of maturity, and Beijing is apparently flexing its muscles to enter the global stage as a major political actor. China has called on South Korea and the U.S.to suspend large scale military exercises in return for the North halting its programs in order to facilitate talks.
In a call Friday, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that North Korea must stop its "provocative and escalatory behavior" and reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the White House said. Yet the two leaders did not discuss this latest action in a phone conversation Friday night, and officials told reporters on Saturday that addressing intellectual property theft has been on their agenda since the president took office. Trump suggested that if China helped rein in North Korea, which is reliant on Beijing's economic and security aid, he could lighten up on his attacks on Chinese trade practices, which were a mainstay of his election campaign. "And I think China will do a lot more".
The trade investigation is expected to be only one part of a multi-pronged push by the Trump administration to counter perceived Chinese trade abuses, which Trump frequently railed against as a candidate. But at a time when the far-right Modi administration is flirting with the US, a judicial coup against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif changed everything and contributed to the American strategy of encirclement.
The United States has previously complained at the WTO about Chinese trade policies, including its "Made in China 2025" initiative, which seeks to have Chinese-made materials account for 70 percent of manufacturing inputs within the next eight years.
"Protection measures against some specific items, such as steel and aluminum, may gain political favors, but are not likely to be of much help to rebalance trade", economists at the Institute of International Finance wrote in a research note this week.