China vowed to fight “unilateral U.S. protectionism ‘at any cost’ on Friday after President Donald Trump ordered officials to examine posing an additional 100 billion dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods.
“On Sino-US trade, China has made its position very clear. We don’t want a trade war, but we are not afraid of such a war,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce told state-run news agency Xinhua on Friday.
The ministry also vowed to take “comprehensive countermeasures,” according to Xinhua, although it did not add further details.
The comments echo the fiery rhetoric in state and Communist Party-backed publications over the past week as the standoff with the U.S. escalates into a possible all-out trade war.
In a statement on Thursday, Trump said he had ordered the move “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” to U.S. tariffs of 25 per cent on 50 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods he announced earlier this week.
“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” Trump said.
“I have instructed the U.S. Trade Representative to consider whether 100 billion dollars of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs.”
He also said he had ordered the secretary of agriculture “to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests.”
The retaliatory tariffs ordered by Beijing this week targeted 50 billion dollars worth of U.S. goods including key exports like soybeans, wheat, aircraft and chemical products designed to hit the rural regions where Trump is particularly popular.
They were announced after the Trump administration unveiled a list of 1,300 Chinese products to be targeted by tariffs including from the aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics, and machinery industries.
Tensions have been rising between the world’s two largest economies since August, when the US president initiated an investigation into anti-competitive trade practices by China and alleged theft of US intellectual property.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Thursday Trump was “right to ask for additional appropriate action to obtain the elimination of the unfair acts, policies, and practices identified in USTR’s report.”
He also said the tariffs, like those previously announced, would undergo a review period before going into effect, leaving the door open for talks.
Trump also said the U.S. was “still prepared to have discussions in further support of our commitment to achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade and to protect the technology and intellectual property of American companies and American people.”
The potential total of 150 billion dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods come on top of the Trump administration’s announcement in March that it was slapping duties of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium products.
Key allies including the European Union, Canada and Mexico were excluded from those tariffs, but not China.
Trump’s tariffs have been criticized by U.S. businesses and members of his own Republican party alike.
“The announcement that the administration may issue 100 billion dollars in additional tariffs on Chinese products is irresponsible and destabilising,” Dean Garfield, head of the Information Technology Industry Council, said.
The National Retail Federation accused the White House of “playing chicken with the economy.”
“This is what a trade war looks like, and what we have warned against from the start. We are on a dangerous downward spiral and American families will be on the losing end,” its president Matthew Shay said.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse said Trump was “threatening to light American agriculture on fire” and that “if he’s even half-serious, this is nuts.”
“Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behaviour but with a plan that punishes them instead of us,” he said.
“This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”