The deadline for public comment on the next wave of punitive taxes on US$200 billion of annual imports from China expired Thursday, so Trump could impose the tariffs immediately. "And I hate to say this, but behind that is another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want".
Trump has had Beijing in his crosshairs since he took office and has applied increasing pressure to try to convince it to change its policies, allow more United States imports and reduce the $335-billion United States trade deficit with China.
Bloomberg News reported Friday that administration officials are discussing using an executive order that authorizes US officials to impose the sanctions on those taking part in "malicious cyber-enabled activities".
Trump's threat to escalate US tariffs on Chinese imports contributed to a decline on Wall Street, with stock index futures dropping on concern that companies and workers would likely endure some financial pain.
The Trump administration has already slapped duties on US$50 billion of Chinese exports since July, which spurred immediate in-kind retaliation from Beijing.
A public comment period on the import taxes ended Thursday.
His comments, which contradicted the more diplomatic remarks earlier Friday from his top economic adviser, sent the stock market plunging amid fears of the economic damage that could result from the multi-front trade war he pursues. An opportunity could take place when world leaders gather at the UN General Assembly in NY this month and the Group of 20 summit in Argentina in November, he said.
The moves would sharply escalate Trump's trade war with Beijing over his demands for major changes in economic, trade and technology policy.
Trump has been locked in a trade dispute with Beijing over China's policy of forcing U.S. companies to hand over trade secrets, as a price of doing business in China. Letters were submitted by tech companies like Dell and Cisco Systems, a coalition of the National Retail Federation and 150 other organizations urging the USTR not to go for more tariffs, . saying it would raise costs for consumers and delay investment.
Trump also wants to reduce the United States' gaping trade imbalance with an ascendant Chinese economy.