"We're negotiating now with China. We're in the midst of a big negotiation. I don't know that anything is going to come of it," Trump said at the White House while rolling out the new trade barriers.
"They have been very helpful. President Xi, I have great respect for, lot of respect," Trump added. "We're going to cut down the deficits one way or another."
Trump claimed the US had a trade gap with China of "at least $500 billion" and said that, counting losses on intellectual property, "it's much bigger than that."
According to Commerce Department data, in 2017 the US-China trade deficit in goods only was actually $375.2 billion, the highest on record. US goods exports to China were also at a record high of $130.4 billion.
"It's got to change," said Trump.
Trump in recent days has referred to negotiations underway with Beijing to reduce the US bilateral trade deficit by $100 billion without specifying how this can be done.
Washington has also launched a process which could see the US take retaliatory trade measures over intellectual property. At the same time, the United States and China maintain delicate diplomatic relations over efforts to contain North Korea's nuclear weapons program.