China calls on US to 'cease and desist' from endangering trade relations

Washington (AFP) - Beijing forcefully denounced President Donald Trump's decision Thursday to impose tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods, accusing him of putting the two economies on course for a trade war.

"If a trade war were initiated by the US, China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures," China's embassy in Washington said in a statement.

"We urge the US to cease and desist," the embassy said, warning that by endangering China-US trade relations Washington will "eventually end up hurting itself."

Trump said Thursday that he had authorized new sanctions on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports as a means of retaliating against Beijing's "theft" of American intellectual property.

The announcement did not immediately impose any new tariffs, with the goods subject to new import duties to be identified in the coming weeks.

The embassy's statement was issued moments after markets closed on Wall Street but investors had already taken Trump's move as a bad omen, with the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 700 points and both other major indices also sharply lower.

US officials accuse China of forcing US companies to enter joint ventures and transfer technology and trade secrets to domestic partners and that US companies are not able to license intellectual property in China as freely as Chinese companies.

US officials also allege China has hacked US networks and conducted industrial espionage to steal US intellectual property.

In its statement on Thursday, the Chinese Embassy said China had shown "sincerity in making reasonable suggestions" and had also made "great efforts" to deal with the current trade imbalance with the United States.

The United States recorded a record $374.2 billion deficit in goods trade with China last year.

For the second time in a month, Thursday's events whipped up peaks of anxiety that Trump's "America First" confrontations with major trading partners were headed toward full-scale trade conflict.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday suggested the new measures on intellectual property were in fact a way of bringing Beijing to the table, calling them "the prelude to a set of negotiations."