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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Trump directed the increase from a previously proposed 10 percent duty because China has refused to meet U.S. demands and has imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

The US imposed 25 per cent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese products in early July, and the review period on another $16 billion of imports ended July 31. "Hence China will continue to uphold this basic position of ours", he said.

In 2017, the United States had a $376 billion trade deficit with China, which it is keen to cut.

Washington touted its initial tariffs as being carefully constructed to avoid having a big impact on US consumers and companies, but the expansion of the tariff lists has drawn in more goods that can not be imported from outside China.

"For Chinese exports to the United States, many of them are no longer produced in the U.S. itself".

The United States has adopted an "escalate to negotiate" strategy towards China, threatening a dramatic hike in tariffs to try to force a resumption of trade talks while the USA economy remains strong and as elections approach in November'.

"The current unilateral threats and pressure from the United States will only backfire", he said.

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The new list includes products as varied as snow blowers and 3-D printers, suggesting Chinese authorities are struggling to find enough imports their own economy can do without.

Officials, however, downplayed suggestions the move was meant to compensate for the recent decline in the value of the Chinese currency, which has threatened to take much of the sting out of Trump's tariffs by making imports cheaper. It will be September at the earliest before the US decides whether to impose those tariffs.

Until now, China has matched United States tariff moves but not sought to escalate them, which has also probably also emboldened the White House to think it holds a stronger position on the escalation ladder. -China trade at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said the tensions have reached a "critical moment".

China warned the United States on Thursday that upping the ante in a tit-for-tat trade war will "only serve to disappoint" the world as Washington threatened to raise the tariff rate on the next $200 billion of Chinese imports.

China's reaction remains uncertain, however, which introduces a risky element into the escalation strategy and means it could backfire. "So, this unifies NAFTA and US-Europe, Australia, Japan - China is increasingly isolated with a weak economy".

A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Beijing was ready for "dialogue and consultation" to defuse the escalating dispute. Container imports at the Port of Oakland reached all-time highs in June. It wants China to stop stealing US corporate secrets, abandon plans to boost its high-tech industries at America's expense and stop subsidizing Chinese companies with cheap loans that enable them to compete unfairly.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap surged 7.3 per cent to $46.3 billion.