Trump wants to increase tariffs to 25 percent on $200B in Chinese imports

The Trump administration said Wednesday that it is considering sharply increasing the level of tariffs that could hit Chinese imports coming into the United States a move that could further fuel a trade war. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE has asked his top trade official U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE to more than double planned tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 percent from the initially proposed 10 percent.

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Senior administration officials said the decision by Trump to consider a higher level of tariffs comes after China's continued refusals to change its trade behavior and treat U.S. companies in a more market-based manner.

“We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake," Lighthizer said in a statement.

"Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses," he said. 

Instead, the officials said, China has retaliated against U.S. tariffs that Trump says are necessary to counter Beijing's unfair trade practices.

"China will have to come to the table to address legitimate concerns that have been raised," one senior official said in a call with reporters.

Hearings are scheduled for later this month on what $200 billion in Chinese products the U.S. could target, where there will be a chance to comment on the proposed 25 percent tariffs, the officials said.

"The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behavior and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens," Lighthizer said. 

The president also has warned about a third round of $200 billion in tariffs.

Trump has already hit China with tariffs of $34 billion — a move that China matched — with another round of tariffs $16 billion in the pipeline. 

"We have to keep thinking all the time whether we have the right tools in place to encourage China to change its actions," one official said. 

"All they've done is threaten us with even more tariffs."

Business groups from retailers to technology said the tariffs will increase the harm to the economy, consumers and workers.

“We said before that this round of tariffs amounted to doubling down on the recklessness of imposing trade policy that will hurt U.S. families and workers more than they will hurt China," said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay.

The NRF said China's trade abuses need to be addressed, but tariffs aren't the answer.

"A broader, long-term strategy is needed that will bring about fair trade without punishing the wrong people," he said. 

Jose Castaneda, spokesman at the Information Technology Industry Council, said that the $200 billion in tariffs along with the threat to more than double the tariff level are misguided policies that will hurt consumers and reduce business investment.

"Instead of escalating this trade war, the president should have serious negotiations with the Chinese to create lasting change," Castaneda said.

Trump administration officials said Trump hasn't spoken recently to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They also said that while U.S. officials are talking to their counterparts in China, there are no plans for the world's two largest economies to come to the table and discuss trade issues at this point.

“We continue to urge the administration to find a path forward that resolves longstanding business concerns without creating damage to U.S. economic interests," said Myron Brilliant, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and head of international affairs.

"The time is now to hold serious discussions with China in order to identify solutions and forestall further unintended impacts that are jeopardizing the livelihood of all Americans," Brilliant said.

American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO, Cal Dooley, said raising the tariff rate would "be devastating for U.S. chemicals manufacturers."

"Our allies are ready to work with us to put multilateral pressure on China to curb its unfair and discriminatory practices," Dooley said.

"We implore the President to let this be the final provocation and negotiate with China to bring an end to this trade war."

Sage Chandler, vice president of international trade, Consumer Technology Association (CTA) said that "by doubling down on tariffs, we're forcing American businesses and entrepreneurs to incur costs that make them uncompetitive with their foreign competitors."

"We urge the Trump administration to roll back its proposal and continue negotiations with China."

Casey Guernsey, a farmer and spokesman for Americans for Farmers & Families (AFF), said that “China is a critical market for the agricultural industry and I urge the administration to look for opportunities to hold China accountable while breaking down barriers to trade, not building them up."

This post was updated at 7 p.m.