China vows to hit back over new US tariffs


China says it will hit back with "qualitative measures", which could mean consumer boycotts, after the US proposed fresh tariffs on $US200 billion of goods.

China is accusing the United States of bullying and warns it will hit back after the Trump administration raised the stakes in their trade dispute, threatening 10 per cent tariffs on $US200 billion ($A270 billion) of Chinese goods and rattling global markets.

In a statement on Wednesday, China's commerce ministry said the US actions were "completely unacceptable" and that it would complain to the World Trade Organisation but did not specifically say how it would retaliate in the dispute.

China's foreign ministry said Washington's threats were "typical bullying" and described the dispute as a "fight between unilateralism and multilateralism".

US officials issued a list of thousands of Chinese goods to be hit with the new tariffs on Tuesday, which is subject to a two-month public comment period.

The top items by value were furniture at $US29 billion of imports in 2017, network routers worth $US23 billion last year and computer components to the value of $US20 billion.

Some US business groups and lawmakers from US President Donald Trump's Republican Party who support free trade were critical of the escalating tariffs with the Republican-controlled Senate voting 88-11 in favour of a non-binding resolution calling for Congress to have a role in implementing such tariffs.

Republican US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said the US announcement "appears reckless and is not a targeted approach." Republican US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan accused China of unfair trade practices but added, "I don't think tariffs are the right way to go."

The US Chamber of Commerce has supported Trump's domestic tax cuts and efforts to reduce regulation of businesses, but does not back Trump's aggressive tariff policies.

"Tariffs are taxes, plain and simple. Imposing taxes on another $200 billion worth of products will raise the costs of every day goods for American families," a Chamber spokeswoman said.

Among the potential ways Beijing could hit back are "qualitative measures," a threat that US businesses in China fear could mean anything from stepped-up inspections to delays in investment approvals and even consumer boycotts.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed Chinese officials, said Beijing was considering holding up licenses for US companies, delaying approvals of mergers involving US firms and stepping up border inspections of American goods.

China could also limit visits to the US by Chinese tourists, a business that state media said is worth $US115 billion, or shed some of its US Treasury holdings, Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING in Hong Kong, wrote in a note.

The $US200 billion far exceeds the total value of goods China imports from the United States, which means Beijing may need to think of creative ways to respond to such US measures.

It also highlights how dependent US businesses and consumers are on Chinese goods. In Trump's first round of tariffs, China accounted for 20 per cent of total US imports, meaning that substitutes were readily available. In this round, China accounted for more than half of the imports.

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