President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider placing $100 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese goods.
"In light of China's unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.
"If so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs," the president said.
Lighthizer called Trump's action "an appropriate response to China's recent threat of new tariffs."
"The president is right to ask for additional appropriate action to obtain the elimination of the unfair acts, policies, and practices identified in USTR's report," he said in a statement.
Beijing on Wednesday announced tariffs on 106 American products — including soybeans, pork, whiskey, and automobiles — the day after Trump slapped duties on $50 billion in Chinese imports.
Trump cited unfair trade practices as rationale for the tariffs, as well as to punish China for its theft of trade secrets, including software, patents, and other technology.
President Trump has repeatedly slammed China for its unfair trade practices and for devaluing its currency against the American dollar.
The tariffs have sent Wall Street stocks tumbling in recent sessions on fears of a trade war and have threatened to unravel efforts by top U.S. and Chinese officials to reach an agreement to prevent harm to the world's two largest economies.
However, both Trump and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow have denied a trade war would erupt with China.
"I think we're going to come to agreements," Kudlow told Neil Cavuto on Fox News on Wednesday. "I believe that the Chinese will back down and will play ball."
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also said he expected trade actions between the United States and China to end in a negotiated deal.
But President Trump continued the attacks on China earlier Thursday during a roundtable on tax reform in West Virginia.
"For many years, no president wanted to go against China economically," Trump told the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center. "We're going to do it.
"We had a trade deficit of almost $500 billion last year with China.
"It was time that we did something," he said, referring to the initial round of tariffs. "We can't continue to allow this to happen.
"We can't be taken advantage of any longer," the president said. "So, we're at a point where we had to do this.
"You have to go after the people that aren't treating you right," Trump said.
In his statement, Lighthizer said "after a detailed investigation, USTR found overwhelming evidence that China's unreasonable actions are harming the U.S. economy.
"In the light of such evidence, the appropriate response from China should be to change its behavior, as China's government has pledged to do many times.
"Economies around the world, including China's own, would benefit if China would implement policies that truly reward hard work and innovation, rather than continuing its policies that distort the vital high-tech sector," he continued.
"Unfortunately, China has chosen to respond thus far with threats to impose unjustified tariffs on billions of dollars in U.S. exports, including our agricultural products.
"Such measures would undoubtedly cause further harm to American workers, farmers, and businesses," Lighthizer said.
Trump's proposed tariffs would not take effect until after the administration holds a public hearing May 15 for U.S. businesses to comment on the plan.
"No tariffs will go into effect until the respective process is complete," Lighthizer said.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.
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