White House expected to unveil tariffs on smaller list of Chinese products Friday

  • The Trump administration expects to unveil tariffs on a list of between 800 and 900 Chinese exports on Friday.
  • Trump is meeting with trade advisors Thursday afternoon and will make the final decision.
  • Beijing has threatened to retaliate to possible tariffs.
  • Efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula complicate matters, as the U.S. needs China's help to push North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The White House plans to roll out tariffs Friday on a truncated list of Chinese exports, three sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The list is expected to include between 800 and 900 products, compared with the original list of about 1,300 products published by the U.S. trade representative in April. The dollar value of the goods the Trump administration expects to target is unclear.

President Donald Trump will meet with top trade advisors on Thursday afternoon. The president reserves the final decision on whether to impose tariffs.

However, a senior White House official called the move "fait accompli." The person notes that the administration has circulated talking points for the tariff actions among 10 government agencies. In addition, a list of products has already been uploaded to a government database for implementation.

Soldiers wait for a container ship to berth at Qingdao Port on March 8, 2018 in Qingdao, China.
VCG | Getty Images
Soldiers wait for a container ship to berth at Qingdao Port on March 8, 2018 in Qingdao, China.

The White House, U.S. trade representative and Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests to comment.

Subsequent to CNBC's report, the Wall Street Journal said that Trump approved tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods.

US at odds with major trading partners

The expected tariffs on Chinese goods come as relations with multiple major trading partners have grown increasingly bitter. The U.S. faces retaliation not only from Beijing but also from allies such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The Trump administration's protectionist moves have prompted so far fruitless efforts from some congressional Republicans to limit the president's power to impose tariffs.

One factor that could influence Trump's thinking is China's response to the possible tariffs. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently in Beijing discussing the next steps in the effort to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. The administration emerged from a summit between Trump and dictator Kim Jong Un optimistic about the prospect of denuclearization.

China's willingness to put economic pressure on North Korea is critical to pushing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions. The round of tariffs could make China reluctant to cooperate with the U.S. on North Korea.

Beijing has said it would retaliate if the U.S. imposes tariffs. The potential for reprisal has raised fears about a devastating series of trade barriers and damage to the American agricultural industry.

Trump has decried what he calls abusive trade practices by Beijing. He argues China has long taken advantage of American leaders, damaging U.S. companies and workers in the process.

The Trump administration is currently trying to strike a trade agreement with China that would lead to the U.S. exporting more goods.