No one will gain from a trade war, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday, speaking hours after the United States and China slapped tit-for-tat duties on $34 billion worth of the other's imports.
“Trade war is never a solution,” Li said at a news briefing with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Sofia, before a summit with 16 central and eastern European countries.
“China would never start a trade war but if any party resorts to an increase of tariffs then China will take measures in response to protect development interests.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier on Friday that Beijing has already begun implementing tariffs on some US goods in retaliation for US duties on $34 billion of Chinese imports, which took effect the same day.
China’s Commerce Ministry, in a statement shortly after the US deadline passed at 0401 GMT on Friday, said that it was forced to hit back, meaning $34bn worth of imported US goods, including autos and agricultural products also faced 25 per cent tariffs.
However, the Chinese government had stopped short of actually saying it had implemented tariffs, stirring market confusion. China always opposes trade protectionism and unilateral pressure will be futile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
“After the United States unfairly raised tariffs against China, China immediately put into effect raised tariffs on some US goods,” Lu said, reiterating earlier government statements that Beijing would fight back when its interests were threatened.
Lu did not provide further details on the implementation of the duties.
Asked when Chinese President Xi Jinping had last spoken with US President Donald Trump, Lu said China and the United States had consistently maintained communications on key issues.
“On the specifics of the trade issue, from the start China’s position has been very clear and consistent. The United States at all levels is very clear on China’s position,” Lu said.
Some Chinese ports had delayed clearing goods from the US, four sources said on Friday. There did not appear to be any direct instructions to hold up cargoes, but some customs departments were waiting for official guidance on imposing added tariffs, the sources said.
Hours before Washington's deadline for the tariffs to take effect, Trump upped the ante, warning that the United States may ultimately target over $500bn worth of Chinese goods, or roughly the total amount of US imports from China last year.