Trump set to press ahead new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods despite talks

Key Points
  • The Trump administration is set to impose fresh tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, but at a lower rate than originally planned, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
  • President Donald Trump wants to leave room to ratchet up pressure on Beijing in case talks fail, and to shield U.S. consumers and the GOP from the fallout, the report said.
Trump's $200 billion tariffs on Chinese goods is 'done deal'
Trump's $200 billion tariffs on Chinese goods is 'done deal'

President Donald Trump is readying a fresh round of tariffs on Chinese goods ahead of scheduled trade talks with Beijing, a senior administration official familiar with the matter told CNBC on Sunday, targeting 10 percent duties on $200 billion of goods.

The official effectively confirmed a Saturday report by The Wall Street Journal, which followed similar reporting on Friday from Bloomberg saying the president directed his aides to proceed with plans to hit China's imports again. While both sides are preparing to meet in order to dial back on trade tensions, Trump's latest actions may imperil those discussions, and may bring fresh retaliation from Beijing, The WSJ reported on Sunday.

The new 10 percent tariffs are below an original figure of 25 percent floated by the administration earlier, the WSJ reported. The president is also expected to threaten to hike tariffs again to squeeze Beijing at the negotiating table, but the Chinese have shown no public signs of bending.

The lower figure has a dual purpose: Diminishing the impact on U.S. consumers ahead of the holiday shopping season, while helping Republicans on the campaign trail ahead of the midterm elections. While voters give Trump high praise on the economy, numerous polls show the Democrats with a wide advantage, and show a public restive about the president's trade wars.

In the last several weeks, Trump has repeatedly signaled he could pull the trigger on new tariffs — which could impact a wide range of consumer goods — whenever he deemed the timing appropriate.

This week, the president met with trade advisors, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, according to reports.

Mnuchin had been spearheading attempts to restart trade talks with China, which The Journal on Sunday reported were in doubt, as the Chinese threatened to decline participation, balking at Trump's demands. Beijing may also restrict sales of goods into the U.S., the report said.

Trump, meanwhile, has indicated he has no intention of backing down. On Thursday he tweeted "we are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us."

In a statement provided to CNBC on Friday, the White House said, "The President has been clear that he and his administration will continue to take action to address China's unfair trade practices. We encourage China to address the long standing concerns raised by the United States."

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--CNBC's Eamon Javers contributed to this article.