President Donald Trump’s trade war against China has so far focused on attacking imports. His new front: Weaponizing American exports.

The Trump administration is seeking to choke off Beijing’s access to key technologies by limiting the sale of vital U.S. components to China’s Huawei Technologies Co. The U.S. is considering putting at least five Chinese surveillance companies on the same blacklist.

The moves are part of a bigger effort by the U.S. to expand and toughen the export control regime that for decades has curbed the sale of defense-related technologies to rogue regimes and strategic rivals. It’s a process that has prompted fears from business that as Trump’s trade war grows into a broader technology-driven conflict with China the U.S. could end up damaging its own economic future.

In closed-door deliberations the administration since last year has been discussing with companies and industry groups how to update and redefine the products on the Commerce Department’s export control list, a process that is expected to gel in the coming weeks.

Administration hawks are pushing for broad definitions to restrict exports related to technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing that they call essential to competitiveness. The new regulations could also limit the ability of companies to hire foreign engineers and scientists to work in affected areas as the knowledge they gain is considered a sensitive “deemed” export.

That fits with the Trump administration’s mantra that economic security is national security. So far the administration has used that to justify tariffs on steel and aluminum and to threaten more import duties on cars and parts from the EU and Japan. More broadly it has used economic tools like stricter national-security screening on Chinese investments in the U.S. and financial sanctions to pursue other policy goals such as protecting Pentagon supply chains and isolating governments in places like Iran and Venezuela.

Some U.S. businesses fear the export controls more than tariffs. Companies like General Electric, Google and Microsoft are worried it could bar them from competing in lucrative markets while reducing America’s capacity to innovate.

In a written submission to Commerce, Microsoft warned that the proposed restrictions risked isolating the U.S. from international research collaborations behind the development of many technologies, and that done wrongly, a new regime “could thwart U.S. interests.”

“Artificial intelligence is a very broad concept,” GE cautioned in its own submission. Defined too broadly export controls could sweep up things like medical imaging where algorithms are being used to scan for diseases and toys like talking teddy bears, it said.

Behind the fear expressed by American companies is a concern that a normally balanced debate to update the list of restricted exports could be dragged into a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies increasingly being guided by hawks in the administration.

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