Trump orders officials to look at $100 billion in new Chinese tariffs

President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE on Thursday ordered the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to consider slapping $100 billion in additional tariffs on China, escalating a heated trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.
 
The move comes one day after China proposed $50 billion in tariffs on a variety of U.S. goods in response to Trump’s own tariff threat. 
 
"In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.
 
 
Trump’s decision could undercut ongoing efforts by U.S. and Chinese officials to calm tensions and prevent a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies. 
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Just hours before the announcement, new Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow tried to downplay fears that the conflict could hurt the U.S. economy.   
 
"Technically, both countries have just proposed tariffs. Nothing’s been enacted,” he told reporters at the White House. “I think that's an important point. Nothing around the corner. There's going to be a big discussion about it."
 
Futures for major U.S. stock indexes dropped after the president’s statement, a sign it could further inflame the upheaval on Wall Street over his trade moves. 
 
But Trump doubled down on his call to impose $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, saying that the country has “repeatedly engaged in practices to unfairly obtain America’s intellectual property.” 
 
“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” he said.
 
The White House on Tuesday released a list of Chinese imports that could be subject to a 25 percent tariff, including electronics, shoes and furniture. 
 
Trump is using his presidential powers to crack down on Chinese policies that he says have gutted U.S. industries, delivering on a promise he made during the 2016 campaign. 
 
U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE conducted a Section 301 investigation that determined Beijing has unfairly forced American firms to turn over intellectual property and technology in order to do business in China. 
 
Those concerns are widely shared among Washington politicians. But Republicans, and some Democrats, fear that imposing tariffs could spark a trade war that could stymie economic growth. 
 
“Hopefully the president is just blowing off steam again but, if he’s even half-serious, this is nuts,” said Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback Sasse: Trump should end 'wicked' family separation policy MORE (R-Neb.), whose state exports billions of dollars in agricultural products to China. “He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire.”
 
Conservatives also worry the trade dispute could undercut their message to voters ahead of the November midterm elections that the GOP tax cuts have helped the economy.  
 
China hit back against the U.S. on Wednesday, proposing 25 percent tariffs on imports of U.S. soybeans, corn, airplanes and automobiles — many of which are produced in states Trump won in 2016. 
 
Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to assert that the U.S. is "not in a trade war with China."
 
“We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S. Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!” he wrote.
 
The U.S. had a trade deficit of $375 billion — not $500 billion — with China in 2017, according to the Commerce Department. 
 
Updated at 8:17 p.m.