Trade fight could be expanding

By Joe McDonald - AP Business Writer
Imported nuts from the United States are displayed for sale at a hypermarket in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China's government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week's U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) -
Chinese-made teddy bears carrying American hit movie Avengers characters are displayed inside an arcade game at a shopping mall in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China's government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week's U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) -
A woman and a child pass Chinese brands of flat screen TVs on display at a hypermarket in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China's government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week's U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) -

BEIJING — China’s government vowed Wednesday to take “firm and forceful measures” as the U.S. threatened to expand tariffs to thousands of Chinese imports like fish sticks, apples and French doors, the latest salvo in an escalating trade dispute that threatens to chill global economic growth.

China gave no details, but it has plenty of options to retaliate that could extend beyond additional tariffs on U.S. imports. There are fears that Beijing could attempt to disrupt operations of American automakers, retailers and others that see China as a key market.

The spiraling conflict stems from Washington’s complaint that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology and concerns that plans for state-led development of Chinese champions in robots and other fields might erode American industrial leadership.

A possible second round of tariff hikes announced Tuesday by the U.S. Trade Representative targets a $200 billion list of Chinese goods. That came four days after Washington added 25 percent duties on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods and Beijing responded by increasing taxes on the same amount of American imports.

The abrupt escalation is “totally unacceptable,” said a Commerce Ministry statement. It said Beijing would take unspecified “necessary countermeasures” to protect its “core interests.”

Asked what Beijing would do, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying gave no details but said, “We will take firm and forceful measures.”

The USTR, the federal agency that oversees international trade policy and negotiations, said it was responding to Beijing’s decision to retaliate instead of changing its policies. President Donald Trump has threatened higher tariffs on more than $500 billion of goods, or nearly all of China’s annual exports to the United States.

Imported nuts from the United States are displayed for sale at a hypermarket in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China’s government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week’s U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_120833548-fe36c1a9dfea4892b04893b54a7f1292.jpgImported nuts from the United States are displayed for sale at a hypermarket in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China’s government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week’s U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Chinese-made teddy bears carrying American hit movie Avengers characters are displayed inside an arcade game at a shopping mall in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China’s government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week’s U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_120833548-99e1c6d3c1304258a4120ff9151f480d.jpgChinese-made teddy bears carrying American hit movie Avengers characters are displayed inside an arcade game at a shopping mall in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China’s government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week’s U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

A woman and a child pass Chinese brands of flat screen TVs on display at a hypermarket in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China’s government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week’s U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_120833548-8dd3185a24734b46b4fbe38f331af1c6.jpgA woman and a child pass Chinese brands of flat screen TVs on display at a hypermarket in Beijing, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. China’s government has criticized the latest U.S. threat of a tariff hike as "totally unacceptable" and vowed to retaliate in their escalating trade war. The Commerce Ministry on Wednesday gave no details, but Beijing responded to last week’s U.S. tariff hike on $34 billion of imports from China by increasing its own duties on the same amount of American goods. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

By Joe McDonald

AP Business Writer