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China responds with retaliatory tariff on 128 US products worth $3 billion

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Image: Xi Jinping and Donald Trump

The Chinese government warns Donald Trump’s administration against taking bilateral trade relations to ‘a dangerous place,’ and has unveiled its own levies on $3bn worth of US imports.

President Xi Jinping, through a statement released on Friday by his commerce ministry, said that China hopes the US will pull back “from the brink,” reiterating in clear terms that it opposes America’s unilateralism and protectionism, which has been a cornerstone of Mr Trump’s policies since coming into office.

The U.S. President signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday targeting up to $60 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs although this only takes effect after a 30-day consultation period that starts once a list is published. The 71-year-old president also indicated that further tariffs could follow as he makes effort to correct what he has repeatedly described as “unfair” trade deals with many countries around the world.

China is considering a 15% tariff on all products from the U.S., including dried fruit, wine and steel pipes, and another 25% trade tax on pork products and recycled aluminum, the commerce ministry revealed on its website.

These decisions will be unavoidable if the two countries are unable to reach an agreement on trade issues, the ministry added.

Speculations have been rife in the global market, with fears of a full-blown trade war, since the American government earlier this month imposed hefty import tariffs on steel and aluminium under Section 232 of the 1962 US Trade Expansion Act, which permits such safeguards for the sole purpose of “national security”.

“China doesn’t hope to be in a trade war,” said the Chinese commerce ministry in its response, “but is not afraid of engaging in one.”

Speaking on the unfolding drama, Mark Williams, Chief Asia Economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note: “The upshot is that today’s (U.S.) tariffs amount to no more than a slap on the wrist for China…China won’t change its ways. Worries about escalation therefore won’t go away.”

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