US, China fire first shots in ‘largest trade war in economic history’

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China's commerce ministry, in a statement shortly after the US deadline passed at 0401 GMT on Friday, said that it was forced to retaliate, meaning $34 billion worth of imported USA goods including autos and agricultural products also faced 25 percent tariffs.

The Commerce Ministry on Friday criticized Washington for "trade bullying" following the tariff hike that took effect at noon Beijing time in a spiraling dispute over technology policy that companies worry could chill global economic growth.

"China is forced to strike back to safeguard core national interests and the interests of its people", its commerce ministry declared.

Trump has threatened to significantly raise the ante by eventually taxing up to $550 billion in Chinese products, which is actually more than the $506 billion in goods China shipped to the United States previous year.

The new tariffs had little impact on Asian stock markets.

China is warning that it's prepared to impose its own 25% retaliatory tariffs on 545 USA products such as California wine, meats, nuts and agricultural products. "The countdown is on as to what Trump will do next". He said that would rise to a full 4 per cent of the global total if Washington, Beijing and other governments follow through on tariff threats.

The ministry called the USA actions "a violation of world trade rules" and said that it had "initiated the largest-scale trade war in economic history".

Analysts and businesses have expressed concerns about the impact on the U.S. The burden on U.S. consumers could be significantly higher if more taxes are imposed on cars and daily necessities imported from China, said Tai Hui, JP Morgan Asset Management's chief market strategist, in a note.

White House trade officials say the current strength of the U.S. economy means Washington can withstand more pain than its rivals if the battle escalates further. For example, the U.S. government wants China to rein in government subsidies for policies like "Made in China 2025", which seeks to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into industries such as robotics, electric cars and computer chips with the aim of becoming a global leader.

US stocks have wobbled on trade frictions, but the S&P 500 Index remains roughly level from the start of the year.

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Mr Trump has railed against Beijing for intellectual property theft and barriers to entry for USA businesses and a $375 billion U.S. trade deficit with China.

"Millions of American jobs depend on America's ability to trade with other countries", the chamber said in a recent statement.

China rejected "threats and blackmail" ahead of a threatened USA tariff hike, striking a defiant stance Thursday in a dispute companies worry could flare into a full-blown trade war and chill the global economy.

Financial markets seemed to take the latest developments in stride.

The Chinese side sees Trump's threats as an attempt to hold back its economic growth - and has vowed to match them move for move.

The risks are great, as China one of the United States' most important trade partners, with about $630 billion (-$130 deficit) in trade done in 2017, not far behind Canada ($670 billion, +$8 billion surplus) and just ahead of Mexico ($616 billion, -$64 billion deficit). "That's impossible. China won't accept that, " he said, adding "what happens next depends on the United States".

The United Nations reported a year ago that, since 2012, China has led the world in the number of tourists who travel to other countries.

The internet watched one vessel's journey to the port of Dalian in Liaoning province.

One ship laden with US soybeans steaming toward China - the bulk carrier Peak Pegasus - appears to have lost the race to arrive before the import duties were imposed.

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