Donald Trump

Washington: President Donald Trump on Friday slapped 25 per cent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods that are imported into the US, prompting vows of swift retaliation from Beijing and turning a spat into a full-blown trade war between the worlds two largest economies.

“The US has kept changing its mind and now launched a trade war,” China’s Commerce Ministry said in response to the announcement.

“We will immediately launch tariff measures that will match the scale and intensity of those launched by the US.”

“China does not want a trade war,” the ministry said, adding that it would “fight back vigorously” in defence of its national interests, globalization and the world trade system.

The Chinese government said it would respond in kind to the US tariffs, which will apply to roughly 1,100 exports and will target China’s aerospace, robotics, manufacturing and auto industries.

Trump’s tariffs were “damaging” relations and “undermining the world trade order”, China said.

Tariffs that affect more than 800 products worth $34 billion in annual trade are due to come into effect on July 6.

The White House said it would consult on tariffs on the other $16 billion of products and would apply these later, the New York Times reported.

“If China retaliates, as it has already pledged to do, the US will impose even more tariffs,” Trump warned as he accused Beijing of intellectual copyright theft.

He said the US would levy the tariffs on goods that contain “industrially significant technologies”, including those that relate to the country’s “Made in China” 2025 plan for dominating high-tech industries.

The tariffs were “essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs”, Trump said, adding that the US “can no longer tolerate losing our technology and intellectual property through unfair economic practices”.

The Chinese product lines that have been hit range from aircraft tyres to turbines and commercial dishwashers.

The President’s announcement to go ahead with imposing penalties on China is the latest twist by White House that has wavered between taking a tough stance on Chinese trade practices and declaring that the trade war was “on hold”.

Beijing said it will retaliate by imposing its own tariffs on a list of roughly $50 billion in American exports, a list likely to include agricultural products and manufactured goods.

“If the US takes unilateral protectionist measures and harms China’s interests, we will respond immediately and take necessary measures to firmly safeguard our legitimate rights,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said earlier on Friday.

The US President first announced that Washington would impose trade penalties on about $50 billion of Chinese goods in March. The tariffs, in motion for months, met with fierce criticism in the US from affected companies as well as farmers and others fearful of retaliation.

The plans won praise from Democrats and opposition from Republicans, who typically favour free trade policies.

Tensions could escalate further in the coming weeks as the White House is formulating a plan for restricting Chinese investments in the US and putting stricter limitations on the types of advanced technology that can be exported to the country.