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WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's administration has suspended a complaint it had made against China to the World Trade Organization, a hint of an opening in the administration's trade war with Beijing.

The organization says it has granted a request to suspend work until December on the administration's complaint that Beijing has failed to safeguard the intellectual property of U.S. companies operating in China -- a major issue in the trade war.

The Geneva-based organization weighs disputes between its members, and if a country prevails, it can impose tariffs on imports from the other. Trump has already imposed tariffs on many Chinese goods.

The organization's announcement did not say why the administration had made the request, and the U.S. trade representative's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

The dispute was one of the first salvos in the U.S.-China trade war and came before Trump's decision to impose unilateral tariffs on Chinese exports.

The U.S. and China agreed to suspend the dispute June 4 -- three months after Beijing revoked or amended various laws and regulations the U.S. cited in its dispute complaint, according to a source familiar with the matter.

They include: China's Foreign Investment Law; the Law of the People's Republic of China on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures; the Administration of Technology Import/Export Regulations; and the Contract Law of the People's Republic of China.

The regulations were included in a list of a half-dozen Chinese laws that the U.S. said violated the trade organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which sets international intellectual property norms.

The U.S. complaint alleged that the Chinese laws were "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."

Chinese rules also imposed "mandatory adverse contract terms that discriminate against and are less favorable for imported foreign technology," according to the U.S. complaint.

Under the organization's rules, a panel may suspend its work at any time at the request of the complaining party for a period not exceeding 12 months.

If the work of a trade organization dispute has been suspended for more than 12 months, the authority for establishment of the panel will lapse.

Information for this article was contributed by staff members of The Associated Press, and by Bryce Baschuk of Bloomberg News.

Business on 06/15/2019

Print Headline: U.S. suspends trade complaint on China

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