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The coronavirus outbreak has closed businesses across China and disrupted global supply chains, adding to existing doubts about steep purchase quotas.
The Wall Street Journal reported a day earlier that US negotiators had offered to lower tariffs on roughly $360 billion worth of Chinese products.
An initial US-China trade pact had been announced in October but was not signed and has not yet been put to paper.
The comments underscored how efforts to resolve a more than yearlong trade dispute with China have rippled through American foreign policy.
With details on core issues still elusive, officials said they did not expect to have the text of the agreement ready for several weeks.
The escalations scheduled for October 15 would lead to import tariffs as high as 30% on Chinese products.
The move was widely seen as an attempt to shield American companies and consumers from price increases.
"They're concerned because I told them, if it's after the election it's going to be far worse than what it is right now," Trump said Tuesday.
The exemptions announced Wednesday included animal feed ingredients, cancer medication and chemicals.
The cost of President Donald Trump's tariffs is increasingly poised to fall onto those who can least afford it.