US-China trade battle kicks off; markets take it in stride


BEIJING (AP) — The United States and China launched what Beijing called the "biggest trade war in economic history" today, imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods amid a spiraling dispute over technology.

The Trump administration is confronting China over development tactics it says include stealing technology or pressuring foreign companies to hand it over.

American officials worry U.S. industrial leadership will be eroded by Chinese plans to create tech champions in fields including robotics, biotech and artificial intelligence.

Washington imposed 25 percent duties on $34 billion of imports from China, the first in a series of possible increases that President Donald Trump says could affect up to $550 billion of Chinese goods, more than the total amount China exported to the U.S. last year.

The first round targets Chinese industrial goods, not consumer products, in an attempt to limit the impact on U.S. households, but companies that rely on Chinese-made machinery or components may eventually have to pass along increased costs to customers.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said "retaliatory tariffs" also took effect, but provided no other details. The Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said tariffs were imposed on a list of goods issued last month that included soybeans, pork and electric vehicles. U.S. soybean farmers have been particularly concerned, and the price of soybeans has plunged 17 percent over the past month on tariff fears.

Washington has "ignited the biggest trade war in economic history," said a Commerce Ministry statement.

During an official visit to Bulgaria, China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, said "no one will win by fighting a trade war, yet China will take countermeasures in the face of unilateral moves."

Companies worry the dispute could chill global economic growth, but Asian financial markets took today's developments in stride.

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