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Trade war

China unveils retaliatory measures against Trump's tariff threats

Asian markets slide on trade tensions between Washington and Beijing

Beijing has urged Washington to "pull back from the brink" of pitting the two countries against each other in a trade war.   © Reuters

BEIJING/WASHINGTON -- China on Friday announced plans to impose tariffs on $3 billion worth of imports from the U.S., in apparent retaliation to U.S. President Donald Trump ordering levies on a range of imports from China. 

Beijing urged the U.S. to "pull back from the brink" of pitting the world's two biggest economies against each other. "China doesn't hope to be in a trade war, but is not afraid of engaging in one," the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Hours after Trump's announcement, the ministry unveiled plans to bring in a 25% tariff on 8 U.S. products, including pork and recycled aluminum, worth $2 billion, as well as 15% on 120 items, such as steel pipes, fruit, nuts and wine, worth $1 billion.

Beijing said the tariffs would be implemented if the two countries were unable to resolve trade issues. The ministry made no mention of a deadline for concluding negotiations.

The retaliatory measures are consistent with World Trade Organization rules, which allow for counter-safeguard measures on imports.

Concerns over escalating trade friction between the U.S. and China spread a strong risk-off mood in Asian markets on Friday morning, with the U.S. dollar slipping to the upper 104 yen range, its lowest level since November 2016.

The Hong Kong dollar fell to a 33-year low. The Nikkei stock index dropped nearly 4%, while Shanghai Composite Index lost 3.0% and South Korea's KOSPI fell 2.2%.

Trump took action Thursday against what he called serious intellectual property abuses by China, calling for 25% tariffs on $50 billion or more of Chinese goods.

Speaking at a news conference, Trump called the U.S. trade deficit with China "out of control" and said he was doing something where past administrations had failed to act.

"We have spoken to China and are in the midst of a very large negotiation," Trump told reporters, suggesting that the situation may be resolved through talks.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will release within 15 days a list of goods to be covered by the proposed tariffs, involving roughly 10% of U.S. imports from China by value. The duties would focus on high-tech products, a senior White House official said.

The value of goods affected could reach up to $60 billion, Trump told reporters. The White House official gave the figure as $50 billion.

The tariffs would be levied under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which lets the president impose trade sanctions against countries found to be engaging in unfair practices.

Thursday's move follows the results of that probe into Chinese trade practices ordered by the Trump administration last summer. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a report Thursday detailing a laundry list of problems, including China forcing American companies to transfer technology by means such as establishing joint ventures with local partners.

The new proposal comes two weeks after Trump signed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, citing national security concerns. The president mentioned Chinese steel overcapacity in announcing those duties.

Washington also will restrict investment by Chinese companies seeking access to advanced American technology. The memorandum signed Thursday by Trump directs the Treasury Department to provide a detailed proposal to this end within 60 days.

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