Beijing (AFP) – China Friday swiftly retaliated by imposing “equal” tariffs on US products following a decision by Donald Trump to slap duties on $50 billion of Chinese products.
“We will immediately launch tax measures of equal scale and equal strength,” the commerce ministry said in a statement on its website which also called on other countries to “take collective action” against this “outdated and backwards behaviour”.
China would also cancel agreements it had reached with the US during previous discussions over the penalties, it said.
The statement was issued after the US president announced tariffs of 25 percent on $50 billion of Chinese imports, making good on a pledge to punish the alleged theft of US intellectual property.
In a statement, he warned of “additional tariffs” should China hit back with tit-for-tat duties on American goods and services exports.
“Launching a trade war does not accord with global interests,” the Chinese commerce ministry said.
“China definitely does not want a trade war, but in the face of the US’s malicious, harmful and shortsighted conduct, China has to impose powerful countermeasures and resolutely defend the national interest and the people’s interests,” it said.
Trump’s announcement capped months of sometimes fraught shuttle diplomacy between Washington and Beijing, in which Chinese offers failed to assuage Trump’s grievances over the soaring US-China trade imbalance.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Friday the United States would begin collecting duties on 818 Chinese imports valued at $34 billion as of July 6.
A second tranche of 284 goods valued at $16 billion — which would bring the total to $50 billion — will undergo an additional process of review and public comment, according to the trade representative’s office.
Analyst BMI Research said Beijing could weather the impact, at least in the short term.
“This is likely to be manageable for the Chinese economy, and the government could offset the damage through tax cuts and domestic subsidies,” the company said.
“The risk is that the situation continues to escalate and turns into a trade war, which would have heavier negative impact not only on China but on other economies in the region.”
The Chinese commerce ministry did not provide details of how it planned to implement the new duties.
China previously issued a list of US products it would hit with 25 percent tariffs in the event of a trade war — from big products like soybeans and beef to more niche items such as bourbon and ginseng — although no timetable was specified.
China is the largest market for US soy and the threat of tariffs on exports of the commodity has the potential to whip up trade anxieties in stalwart Republican states.
US pork and cars manufactured in the United States are already on the radar of Chinese customs, which has stepped up inspections.