The Trump administration is proposing raising planned taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent, turning up the pressure on Beijing in a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.
The United States has already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports and is readying 25 percent tariffs on another $16 billion worth to punish China for allegedly using predatory tactics to obtain U.S. technology. The Chinese have retaliated in kind.
A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, on Thursday warned the Trump administration "not to try to blackmail China, because it will never work," following the latest tariff threat.
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Geng said at a news conference, "we advise the United States to be level-headed and avoid simply acting on impulse."
Last month, the U.S. proposed 10 percent tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese products — from parachutes to sardines — in response to China's retaliation. But President Donald Trump now wants U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider more than doubling those tariffs to 25 percent. The government will seek public comment on the higher tariffs. A hearing on the levies is scheduled for Aug. 20-23.
"The Trump Administration continues to urge China to stop its unfair practices, open its market and engage in true market competition," Lighthizer said Wednesday, adding that, "Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses."
Reacting to media reports that the higher tariffs were coming, Shuang warned that Beijing will "definitely fight back" to defend its "lawful rights and interests." He gave no details of possible retaliatory measures.
Trump has threatened to escalate the conflict even more by taxing virtually all of the $500 billion worth of goods China ships annually to the United States.
"The president is going to continue to hold China responsible for their unfair trade practices," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "This has gone on for long enough and he's going to do something about it."
But Trump's tariffs have drawn criticism at home in the United States for driving up costs for consumers and companies that rely on Chinese imports.
"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 Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation. "Increasing the size of the tariffs is merely increasing the harm that will be done. "
Mickey Kantor, who was U.S. trade representative under President Bill Clinton, warned that a trade war with China will take a toll on a U.S. healthy economy that from April through June registered the fastest growth since 2014.
"Our economy is in terrific shape," said Kantor, now a partner at the Mayer Brown law firm. "Why in the world would you do this? It makes no sense. We don't need it. It will cost us jobs and investment. It will slow the economy."
Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.