By K J M Varma
Beijing - China on Tuesday hit back at the US with tariffs on USD 60 billion worth of American goods, in a tit-for-tat move that came hours after President Donald Trump slapped duties on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
President Trump slapped 10% tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese imports and the duties will rise to whopping 25% at the end of the year, escalating the trade war with the world's second largest economy.
He alleged that China had been unwilling to change its unfair trade practices and the new additional tariff structure would give fair and reciprocal treatment to American firms.
China's finance ministry said in a statement: "If the United States insists on raising tariffs even more, China will respond accordingly".
"In order to safeguard our legitimate rights and interests and the global free trade order, China will have to take countermeasures," the country's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement, adding that "We deeply regret this".
China has decided to levy tariffs on about USD 60 billion worth of imports from the US if Washington carries out its planned tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese goods, China's Customs Tariff Commission (CCTC) of the State Council or the central cabinet said tonight.
China's retaliation only covered USD 60 billion as overall US exports to China were about USD 187.5 billion against China's exports to America of USD 522.9 billion last year.
China has already slapped tariffs on American goods worth about USD 76 billion in retaliation to Trump's earlier tariff hike. With Tuesday's hike, it covers USD 136 billion worth of US goods when they take effect.
Announcing new round of tariffs on US goods, the CCTC said China plans to slap additional tariffs on 5,207 categories of US products with two levels of tariff rates — 10% and 5%.
The tariffs will become effective on September 24, if the US' renewed tariffs on USD 200 billion worth Chinese products take effect, the official media here quoted CCTC as saying.
China had threatened to retaliate with "synchronised counter measures" against Trump's third round of tariffs, saying the US' move will add "new uncertainties" for future talks between the world's top two economies.
Trump also warned China against any retaliation, saying if Beijing retaliated this time, the US would impose further tariffs on another USD 267 billion worth of products virtually covering almost all Chinese exports to the US totalling about USD 522.9 billion.
According to official figures, US goods and services trade with China totalled an estimated USD 710.4 billion in 2017 of which US exports were USD 187.5 billion and imports were USD 522.9 billion.
Trump has been pressuring China to reduce the trade deficit with the US, totalling to USD 335.4 billion in 2017.
Last month, both sides resumed trade talks but at a lower level. Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen held talks in Washington but without much results.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said "China has to respond to uphold our legitimate rights and interests, the order of free trade".
"This measure by US side added more uncertainties to the talks between the two sides," he said.
Asked how the two sides plan to end the trade war, Geng said "We have been stressing that talks need to happen on the basis of equality and good faith so as to resolve the issues between the two sides. What the US has done shows no sincerity, no good faith at all," he said.
To another question on whether China viewed escalation of tariff war by the US as an attempt to contain Beijing's rise, Geng said, "regarding containment, I have never heard of that from any US official.
"We have been repeating that sound and steady development of China-US ties serves the fundamental interest of the two sides and what the international community wishes to see".
Geng said China would like to work with the US to achieve that, adding that "however the protectionist and unilateral measures taken by US were not acceptable to us".
He also declined to go into specific measures on whether Beijing would contemplate non-trade measures like containing visas to US citizens.
"In the light of the latest round of tariffs, China has to counter act but what kind of counter measures would the Chinese side take will be released in time. You made assumption (about not granting visas), I have no comment on that," Geng said.
Hong Kong-based 'South China Morning Post' reported on Tuesday that China is likely to cancel its tentative plans to send President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser Liu He to Washington after Trump's new tariff announcement.
According to the source, who declined to be identified , as the plans have not been made public, China is reviewing its earlier plans to send a delegation, headed by vice-premier Liu He to Washington next week, the report said.
One precondition for the talks was that the Americans would show sufficient goodwill but Trump's latest decision to escalate the trade war by slapping new tariffs on almost half of all Chinese exports may have scuppered the talks, it quoted the sources as saying.
"If the vice-premier does go to the US, we can reasonably suspect he has a reasonable offer, but at this point, I would think the likelihood is low," the representative said.
China had earlier retaliated twice by imposing additional tariffs on imported products from the US.