Geneva: China said on Thursday it will hit back with “counter-measures" if US President Donald Trump imposes additional tariffs of 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, a clear indication of worsening global trade war between the world’s two largest economies, according to people familiar with the development.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer had said on Wednesday that he had secured the green signal from Trump to consider raising the tariffs from the earlier planned 10% to 25% under an ongoing Section 301 targeting Chinese goods on grounds of alleged theft and forced transfer of technologies from US companies.

“The president directed that I consider increasing the proposed level of the additional duty from 10% to 25%," Lighthizer had said.

The US is upset that China chose to adopt a retaliatory strategy in a tit-for-tat response. “Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behaviour, China has illegally retaliated against US workers, farmers, ranchers and business," Lighthizer argued.

“What Washington ultimately wants is for China to come back to the negotiating table," according to an article in Washington Trade Daily of 2 August.

“Discussions are underway now with Beijing to see whether conditions are right to hold fruitful negotiations," the report said.

China upped the ante on Thursday in response to the Trump administration’s latest move.

“As regards the threat by the US to upgrade the trade war, China is fully prepared and will introduce counter-measures to defend the country’s dignity and the interests of the Chinese people, and defend free trade and the multilateral system," China’s commerce ministry said on 2 August.

In measured and balanced responses, China made two points. “First, we advise the US side to correct its attitude and not to try to engage in blackmail," China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Thursday.

“Second, we advise the US to return to reason and not to act in anger, which will ultimately hurt themselves," the Chinese spokesperson maintained, leaving the door open for fresh discussions.

China’s vice-trade minister Wang Shouwen said last month in Geneva that “for any talks to be successful, no party should point a gun at the other party."

“For any talks to be useful every party needs to keep its word," he said on 8 July.

The US is also simultaneously stepping up the heat against China on a separate front by forming a coalition of the US, the European Union, Japan, and several other countries of the global north at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Lighthizer claimed that Washington has joined forces with like-minded partners around the world “to address unfair trade practices such as forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft, and we remain ready to engage with China in negotiations that could resolve these and other problems detailed in our Section 301 report".

China has adopted a twin-track strategy to the US’s threats.

While raising the bar on countermeasures at each point, China has also knocked the doors of the WTO dispute settlement body with trade disputes against the US’s illegal and unilateral crowbar trade measures.

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