WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has escalated his trade war with China, ordering his administration to consider more than doubling proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from 10 per cent, as talks between Washington and Beijing remain at a standstill.
Trump on Wednesday instructed the US Trade Representative to look into increasing tariffs on Chinese imports including fish, petroleum, chemicals, refrigerators, handbags and other goods to 25 per cent, reports The New York Times.
However, a final decision on the size and scope of the tariffs is not expected before September.
"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 behaviour and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens," US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
"China has illegally retaliated against US workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses."
In response to the announcement, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing was standing its ground in the trade dispute, reports CNN.
"China's position is firm and clear cut," the spokesman said.
"It remains unchanged. The blackmailing and pressure by the US will never work on China if the US take measures to further escalate the situation we will surely take countermeasures to firmly uphold our legitimate rights and interests."
The 25 per cent tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports would come on top of the existing penalties on $34 billion worth of products and an additional $16 billion that are scheduled to go into effect soon, The New York Times reported.
China has vowed to respond to any trade measures in kind, and it has already imposed its own tariffs on $34 billion worth of American soybeans, pork, electric vehicles and other goods.
The administration's trade moves are aimed at forcing China to end what it calls unfair trade practices, including improperly obtaining American intellectual property.
Earlier on Wednesday, Congress passed legislation that will strengthen national security-related checks on Chinese investment in the US, a move that is also aimed at curbing China's ability to capture valuable American technology.
Meanwhile, the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major IT users like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, immediately called the move by the administration "irresponsible, counterproductive", and said it would "only do more harm to Americans across the country".
"American consumers and businesses are now feeling the pinch of increased costs," said Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for the council.
"Instead of escalating this trade war, the president should have serious negotiations with the Chinese to create lasting change."