China could slap tariffs on $3 billion worth of imports of US goods in the latest move to increase trade tensions between the two countries.
The country’s Commerce Ministry said Friday that the proposed trade sanctions would target US-made products ranging from pork to steel pipes.
The decision came just hours after President Donald Trump directed the US trade representative to level tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports following a seven-month investigation into the intellectual property theft.
In addition to the tariffs, the United States also plans to impose new investment restrictions, take action against China at the World Trade Organization and the Treasury Department will also propose additional measures.
Despite the timing, China’s Commerce Ministry did not label the Chinese measures a direct response to Thursday’s broadside from the Trump administration. It said the decision to potentially hit back with trade measures was based on the Trump administration’s decision to apply tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum earlier in March.
The ministry said it could sanction more than 120 US goods, which also include American nuts and wines. The import tariffs would range from 15% to 25%.
China said it would also pursue its own case against the United States at the World Trade Organization.
“Ignoring the rules of the WTO and ignoring the appeal of the broad business community, the United States has decided to go it alone,” the Commerce Ministry said in a second statement on Friday.
The last 24 hours have seen a significant ratcheting up in trade tensions between the United States and China.
Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of unfair trade practices like currency manipulation — which helps China make its exports more affordable — and of stealing US intellectual property. The president has frequently taken aim at China’s huge trade in goods surplus with the United States, which reached $375 billion last year.
But Friday’s tariffs are the first time the Trump administration has directly targeted China with big trade sanctions. Previous measures against steel, aluminum and solar panels have applied to imports from other countries too.
China has repeatedly said that it doesn’t want a trade war but warned that it would take “firm and necessary” countermeasures if necessary.
It reiterated that message Friday. “China does not want a trade war, but China is not afraid of a trade war. We are confident in our capability to face up to any challenge,” the Commerce Ministry said.