Geneva: Fears of a trade war between the two largest world economies worsened on Thursday. The US refused to blink and will go ahead with tariffs on $34 billion of imports from China on Friday. On its part, China signalled retaliation even as it reached out, using the platform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to forge an alliance with other member nations.

Speaking at a weekly news conference in Beijing, commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng warned that the proposed US tariffs would hit international supply chains, including foreign companies in the world’s second-largest economy.

“China will not bow down in the face of threats and blackmail and will not falter from its determination to defend free trade and the multilateral system," Gao said.

Earlier in the week, people familiar with the development revealed that China had reached out to other WTO members to jointly fight what it described as “Washington’s flagrant violation of global trade rules".

At a meeting of the WTO’s Goods Council, the same people quoted above quoted a Chinese diplomat as saying: “We would also call on the whole membership (of the WTO) to join us in firmly fighting against unilateralism and protectionism".

“The acts of the United States are a severe violation of the fundamental principles of the WTO, which would seriously damage the multilateral trading system and destruct the global trade order," the Chinese official told the Council.

“History tells us that if the unilateralism is unrestrained, it would bring destruction to the world economy and all members, especially the developing country members," the Chinese official warned.

The official added that “at this moment, we cannot be certain who and what product would be the next target of the US unilateralism".

Many countries, including India, cautioned the US at the WTO on Tuesday not to impose unilateral trade measures.

Addressing the German Bundestag on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned the Trump administration of dire consequences if Washington imposes 25% of additional duties on imports of European cars coming to the US.

“We now have tariffs on aluminum and steel and we have a discussion that is far serious," she said, according to several news reports on Wednesday.

“This is taking on contours of a trade conflict... It’s worth every effort to try and defuse this so that this conflict does not become a war," she said.

“Targeting cars would dramatically raise the stakes in the spat between Europe and its biggest trading partner with the EU-US trade in goods and services worth than $1.2 trillion each year," Washington Trade Daily said on 5 July.

China said “if the WTO members are not able to fight and control the current unilateralism and protectionism, the whole WTO membership, including the US, would be the victims".

The US objected to China’s strong statement that was widely shared by both industrialized and developing countries.

The US said China cannot bring issues concerning US Section 301 to a meeting that is not authorized to discuss the issue, said a person who asked not to be identified.

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