Trump considering $100B in additional tariffs against China

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Trump administration officials have said the USA may not ultimately impose tariffs on China, with White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow saying Wednesday that the president wants to solve the trade dispute with the "least amount of pain".

China's Ministry of Commerce responded, saying Beijing would "not hesitate to pay any price" to defend its interests. The ministry said it would hold a press briefing at 8:00 p.m.in Beijing Friday.

US President Donald Trump said in a statement on Friday that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is unfair to the United States.

"The U.S. -China trade rhetoric fluctuates between escalation and negotiation", said Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

China's "unfair trade policies need to be reined in", she said. Financial markets have swung wildly over the past few days in response to fears of escalating trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. "None of this supports growth and employment".

"We're not running a trade war", White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. He later stressed that any additional tariffs first would be subject to a 60-day public comment period.

The move comes a day after China issued a $50 billion list of US goods including soybeans and small aircraft for possible tariff hikes in an escalating and potentially damaging dispute. "No tariffs will go into effect until the respective process is complete", Lighthizer said.

Trump's surprise directive Thursday came a day after Beijing announced plans to tax $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, in response to a USA move this week to slap tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports. A further $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods would likely expand the scope of Trump's attack to more consumer goods.

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Trump's latest threat was met with criticism from members of his own Republican party.

"The US can't continue to to allow this to happen, where hundreds of billions of dollars is taken out of the US; where if they make a vehicle, they sell it here, it's 2.5 per cent tax", said Trump.

Capping off a week of escalating trade war rhetoric, Trump said he could no longer turn a blind eye to unfair trade practices that have led to a $375 billion trade deficit previous year. But China said earlier Friday that that it would "counterattack with great strength". "That goes for other countries and it goes for other places", he said. "We have to have some balance".

Before the additional tariffs requested by the president, Kudlow had been working to tamp down worries of a full-out trade battle between the world's two biggest economies. "It's hard to tell the difference between a rhetorical flourish from a president known for bombastic remarks and a meaningful shift in policy".

An oil well pump jack is seen at an oil field supply yard near Denver, Colorado, U.S., February 2, 2015.

China is the United States' largest trading partner. Republican lawmakers from Western and Midwestern states have voiced worries about a big hit to USA farming exporters. But economists warn that the tit-for-tat moves bear the hallmarks of a classic trade rift that could keep growing.

"China over the years has taken advantage of the attitude in America, which is we haven't watched very closely and they've been cheating", Romney said. Worries about a potential trade war have rippled through farm states, which are a powerful voting bloc in November's congressional elections. That would equate to as much as $617bn being lost from world economic growth. He said there "could be a little pain".

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