President Donald Trump's administration moved the U.S. to the brink of a trade war with China, announcing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports that America's biggest trading partner has vowed to retaliate against.
USA soybean futures plummeted earlier this week on fears that a trade war was brimming and China would follow through on its threat of a 25 percent soybean tariff.
Trump on Friday followed through on a pledge to crack down on what he considers to be unfair trade practices by China, imposing tariffs on goods that "contain industrially significant technologies".
"If the United States takes unilateral, protectionist measures, harming China's interests, we will quickly react and take necessary steps to resolutely protect our fair, legitimate rights", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
"All economic and trade agreements reached by previous negotiations will be nullified at the same time".
China and the USA are major seafood trading partners beyond just lobster, and the new tariffs would apply to dozens of products that China imports from the US, including salmon, tuna and crab.
Trump has vowed to fulfill his campaign pledge to crack down on what he contends are China's unfair trade practices and efforts to undermine U.S. technology and intellectual property.
"It is deeply regrettable that in disregard of the consensus between the two sides, the US has demonstrated flip-flops and ignited a trade war", the ministry said. "China opts for the first one and has made such a decision", Wang said before warning, "we hope the USA will make a wise choice and China on its part is prepared on all fronts".
At least initially, though, the new tariffs will not cover the full $50 billion in trade that the White House had threatened in March.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday praised President Trump for slapping tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products and said he urged the chief executive to do this "three weeks ago". This friction between China and the US comes at a time when the latter must rely on the former in order to mend a longstanding strife with North Korea.
After a round of talks in May in Washington, Chinese officials promised to buy more American farm goods, natural gas and other products to narrow China's multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States.
"To make matters worse, President Trump rolled back sanctions on Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE after the company sold critical technology to Iran and North Korea, and lied to United States security officials about it. President Trump should be focused on American jobs, not China's", the lawmaker said. These products will undergo further review in a public notice and comment process, after which USTR will issue a final determination. American officials say they target products that might benefit from Chinese industrial policies they say violate Beijing's free-trade commitments. Washington warned it would go further if Beijing reacted harshly to its decision.
That raises the specter of an intensifying trade war, which would hurt consumers, companies and the global economy. China's Commerce Ministry released a statement early Saturday morning insisting the country did not want a trade war, but would nonetheless "fight back vigorously" now that the U.S.is starting one.
The Trump administration in May also assessed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico.
China is the largest market for USA soy and the threat of tariffs on exports of the commodity has the potential to whip up trade anxieties in stalwart Republican states.