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Trump initially proposed 10 per cent tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports, but he told trade officials this week to consider raising that to 25 per cent.

President Trump has instructed United States trade representatives to increase the tariffs it levies on around $200 billion of Chinese exports, from 10% to 25%, citing China's failure to address United States concerns over "unfair trading practices" that include "forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft".

He is also betting that the USA could wield more leverage because Beijing cannot match the tariffs proposed on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

China vowed on Thursday to retaliate if the United States acted on a threat to raise tariffs on the Asian nation's exports, fueling fears in financial markets that the trade war between the world's two biggest economies would escalate.

The threat of US auto tariffs was placed on hold July 26 after Trump and Juncker agreed to refrain from "unilateral actions" while European Union and the United States endeavor to negotiate a trade pact.

"If the USA takes measures to further escalate the situation, we will surely take countermeasures to uphold our legitimate rights and interests", said Geng Shuang, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, at a regular press conference.

President Trump has proposed that US trade officials raise tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent over a perceived failure to address concerns regarding unfair trading practices, officials said. The combined total of over $500 billion of goods would cover virtually all Chinese imports into the United States.

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Participants at the meeting in Geneva on July 31 said they are considering an array of options, including an appeal to the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement system and the imposition of retaliatory tariffs against US goods.

The review period for US tariffs on the next $16 billion of Chinese imports ended Tuesday, but senior administration officials said a decision had not been made yet on when or whether to impose them.

China's government, however, shows no sign of bending to Washington's pressure. The U.S. exports goods to China amounting to $130 bln, so it is unlikely that it will be able to respond with a proportionate expansion. "Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against US workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses".

Word late on Tuesday that the Trump administration was poised to escalate a trade war with China has been confirmed by the White House, with a spokeswoman saying that the president is "going to hold their feet to the fire".

The ministry said timing of the implementation of the new tariffs on USA goods would depend on the actions of the US. The public has until September 5 to comment on the proposal.

Lighthizer noted that if tariffs are increased to 25 percent, they would be applied to the proposed list of products that were announced on July 10.

Meanwhile, in corporate America, it appears that there is just one thing executives are talking about: tariffs.