Economic Espionage and Trade Secrets Enforcement Under the Trump Administration

January 30, 2017

In the recent presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump promised, if elected, to act more assertively to protect the economic interests of the United States and its citizens against unfair foreign competition by "putting America first" and using "every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets … ."

Sen. Jeff Sessions—President-elect Trump's choice for Attorney General to lead the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)—has publicly expressed similar concerns about unfair foreign competition. Sen. Sessions wrote in 2015 that China has "undermine[d] the principles of free trade and free enterprise by ignoring the rules that they promised to uphold." Sen. Sessions further stated that China "shouldn't be allowed to skirt the rules while arguing that it's not doing enough damage to our people to justify relief."

There are several potential policies the Trump Administration may advance to implement its stated agenda of protecting Americans against unfair foreign competition, including renegotiating trade agreements, imposing tariffs on certain imports to the United States, and restricting immigration.

In the white-collar arena, the Trump Administration may also seek to protect the interests of U.S. companies (and their workers) whose intellectual property is the target of foreign espionage or theft through another powerful tool—enhanced DOJ enforcement of economic espionage/trade secrets laws.

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