The latest move by the US could intensify conflict between the two countries

The latest move by the US could intensify conflict between the two countries

The US has called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to investigate China in relation to possible violations related to its intellectual property policies, in a move that will likely escalate conflict between the world's two largest economies.

The total amount of Chinese imports hit by US tariffs is now up to US$250bn; a move aimed at penalising China for what it has called "rampant abuses" of intellectual property rights. Notably, several textile and apparel-related products such as backpacks, handbags, purses, wallets, baseball gloves, hats and leather, and fur apparel, as well as textiles and machinery used for domestic manufacturing are targeted in the tariffs.

China has since retaliated with its own tariffs on around $60bn of American goodsm, which went into effect on 24 September.

In its complaint, the US says various Chinese regulations violate the terms of the WTO's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).

"China denies foreign patent holders the ability to enforce their patent rights against a Chinese joint-venture party after a technology transfer contract ends," the complaint notes. "China also imposes mandatory adverse contract terms that discriminate against and are less favourable for imported foreign technology. Therefore, China deprives foreign intellectual property rights holders of the ability to protect their intellectual property rights in China as well as freely negotiate market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related contracts."

The WTO dispute settlement body is expected to consider the US request at its 29 October meeting in Geneva.

The WTO itself has become a target of President Donald Trump's ire after the US, along with trade leaders from Japan and the EU, last month reiterated a call for a reform of the body in the hope of creating a more efficient system that allows global trade to be conducted in a fairer way.