China tells US it will defend interests after Trump tariffs

China's newly appointed economic czar told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday that Beijing is ready to defend its interests after President Donald Trump announced plans to slap tariffs on nearly $50 billion in Chinese imports.

Vice Premier Liu He told Mnuchin in a phone call that the order Trump signed Thursday violates international trade rules, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The White House says the planned tariffs are aimed at punishing Beijing for allegedly stealing American technology and pressuring U.S. companies to hand it over.

Xinhua cited Liu as saying that China is "ready and capable of defending its national interest and hopes both sides will remain rational."

China said Friday that it planned to raise tariffs on a $3 billion list of U.S. goods, including pork, apples and steel pipes in response to the steel and aluminum duties earlier announced by Trump.

The Chinese move appeared to be a warning shot aimed at increasing domestic U.S. pressure on Trump by making clear which exporters, including farm areas that voted for the president in 2016, might be hurt.

On Friday, American farmers from hog producers in Iowa to apple growers in Washington state and winemakers in California expressed deep disappointment over being put in the middle of a potential trade war with China by the president many of them helped elect.

China's Commerce Ministry said Beijing was considering a tariff increase of 25 percent on pork and aluminum scrap, mirroring Trump's 25 percent charge on steel. A second list of goods, including wine, apples, ethanol and stainless steel pipe, would be charged 15 percent, mirroring Trump's tariff hike on aluminum.

Overall, the nation's farmers shipped nearly $20 billion of goods to China in 2017. The American pork industry sent $1.1 billion in products, making China the No. 3 market for U.S. pork.

"No one wins in these tit-for-tat trade disputes, least of all the farmers and the consumers," said National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl, a pig farmer from Johnstown, Ohio.

The U.S. has complained for years about China's sharp-elbowed trading practices, accusing it of pirating trade secrets, manipulating its currency, forcing foreign companies to hand over technology, and flooding world markets with cheap steel and aluminum that drive down prices and put U.S. manufacturers out of business.

The spiraling trade dispute between the world's two largest economies has spurred concerns among companies and investors that global commerce could be depressed.


This story corrects Liu He's title.