China will respond if the United States takes any new steps on trade, the foreign ministry said on Monday. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

BEIJING - China will respond if the United States takes any new steps on trade, the foreign ministry said on Monday, after President Donald Trump warned he was ready to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports into the United States.

On Friday, Trump said he was ready to levy additional taxes on practically all Chinese imports, threatening duties on $267 billion (R4bn) of goods over and above planned tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese products.

“If the US side obstinately clings to its course and takes any new tariff measures against China, then the Chinese side will inevitably take countermeasures to resolutely protect our legitimate rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular briefing, when asked about Trump’s warning.

He did not elaborate.

The United States and China have activated additional tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods since July, as trade friction between the world’s two biggest economies worsened, despite several rounds of negotiations.

Trump has criticised China’s record trade surplus with the United States, and has demanded that Beijing cut it immediately.

Tension has also persisted over limits on US firms’ access to Chinese markets, intellectual property protection, technology transfers and investment.

In August, China unveiled a proposed list of retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion of US goods ranging from liquefied natural gas to some types of aircraft, should Washington activate the tariffs on its $200 billion list.

The tariffs, ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent, would apply to 5 207 products, and US actions will determine whether China adopts the additional duties, Beijing said at the time.

China has either imposed or proposed tariffs on $110 billion of US goods, representing most of its American imports, though crude oil and large aircraft are still not targeted for penalties.

The $200 billion of Chinese goods on the US list includes some consumer products such as cameras and recording devices, luggage, handbags, tires and vacuum cleaners, with additional tariffs ranging from 10 to 25 percent.

Spared until now, mobile telephones, the biggest US import from China, would be engulfed if Trump activates the $267 billion tariff list.

Trump’s threatened tariffs cover a total of $517 billion in Chinese goods, which would exceed last year’s goods imports of $505 billion from China.

China’s official export data has been surprisingly resilient, with growth exceeding analysts’ expectations for five months in a row.

-REUTERS