U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Trump directed the increase from a previously proposed 10 percent duty because China has refused to meet U.S. demands and has imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.
Markets were however steady on Tuesday, given a boost by hopes for new negotiations.
Now, Washington might also impose tariffs on an extra 16 billion dollars of goods in the next few weeks and Trump has warned he might go even further and ultimately put them over half a billion dollars of goods, roughly the total amount of USA imports from China previous year.
"Certainly, we would like to see the playing field leveled", White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a briefing on Wednesday.
Oil Price.com, an industry site, reports that China said on Wednesday that it would respond with quick retaliation if the US moves forward with higher tariffs. "Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behaviour, China has illegally retaliated against United States workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses", Lighthizer said in a statement. That particular set of tariffs has not yet taken effect. The trade gap narrowed in April and May as farmers front-loaded soybean exports to China before Beijing's retaliatory tariffs came into effect in early July.
Leading indices fell across Asia and Europe this morning after President Trump ordered senior officials to more than double the administration's planned tariffs on thousands of Chinese exports.
"The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is meant to provide the Administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behavior", Lighthizer wrote.
With talks to resolve the dispute stalled, Trump is looking to up the ante. "I think it would be a very complicated thing to get out of, because I don't see an easy remedy once we go down this path", said Michael Camuñez, president and CEO of Monarch Global Strategies and former USA assistant secretary of commerce for market access during the Obama administration. China imported only about $130 billion in products from the USA a year ago.
Trump had said he would implement the $200 billion round as punishment for China's retaliation against the initial tariffs aimed at forcing change in China's joint venture, technology transfer and other trade-related policies.
"They better not underestimate the President", Mr Kudlow said in an interview on Fox Business Network."This has gone on for long enough and he's gonna do something about it".
The ministry also took note of what it said were conflicting White House messages: threats of higher tariffs but also signals it wants to resume settlement talks.
The odd thing is that crude oil and LNG aren't subject to any formal trade tariffs, and they appear most affected, while steel, which is the target of USA tariffs, is performing strongly.
Earlier on Wednesday, Congress passed legislation that will strengthen national security-related checks on Chinese investment in the U.S., a move that is also aimed at curbing China's ability to capture valuable American technology. But administration officials said nations should refrain from devaluing currency for competitive reasons.