President Trump signed a memorandum Thursday directing the U.S. Trade Representative to impose an estimated $50 billion in tariffs on China, which will go into effect in at least 45 days.
"We have spoken to China and we are in the midst of a very large negotiation," Mr. Trump said. "We will see where it takes us. In the meantime, we are sending a Section 301 action."
Mr. Trump said he has asked Chinese officials to immediately reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China by $100 billion.
Mr. Trump also made news at the end of the event, when he told reporters he still wants to testify before special counsel Robert Mueller.
"Yes," Mr. Trump said, according to the White House press pool. "I would like to."
The tariffs will target what White House trade adviser Peter Navarro described on a conference call with reporters as China's market distorting and "discriminatory practices" to steal American intellectual property and unfair technology transfers.
Deputy director of the National Economic Council Everett Eissenstat, who was also on the call, said that USTR will publish a "long list" of proposed Chinese imports within 15 days. A notice and comment period will then open up for stakeholder input.
The Treasury department has until 60 days from memorandum's signing to submit recommendations for a final list of tariffs.
The tariffs, senior officials say, will be designed to offset "the gains that the Chinese have received through unfair trade practices."
The memorandum will also direct the Treasury department to make recommendations on restrictions to Chinese investments to the President within 60 days. While the tariffs will be imposed unilaterally, Eissenstat also said that Mr. Trump will direct the World Trade organization to "address China's discriminatory licensing practices."
White House officials did not specify which products will be targeted by the tariffs but the stock market opened lower on on Thursday morning with investors worried that Mr. Trump's actions will trigger retaliatory actions from China.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that China is already preparing measures to hit back at the U.S. by targeting U.S. agricultural exports like soybeans and hogs.
Navarro claimed the administration has tried "very, very hard to work with the Chinese.
"Trump did his due diligence in inviting the Chinese to the Mar-a-Lago process and engaged and we went all the way to August trying to resolve these issues through dialogues," Navarro told reporters.
On Monday, Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Best Buy and other major retailers released a letter urging the President not to impose tariffs on China arguing that they could "punish American working families with higher prices on household basics like clothing, shoes, electronics, and home goods.
The U.S. Chamber of commerce also pushed back back in a statement over the weekend to say that tariffs are "damaging taxes on American consumers."
A White House official said that while stakeholder input is "important and valued," dialogue with the Chinese over the past 15 years has been fruitless.
"China has been well aware of these concerns for many many years so the president has decided that now is the time to take decisive actions," the official said.
Follow below for live updates from earlier.