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Beijing responded by imposing similar charges on the same amount of US products.

The United States was the fourth-largest supplier of foreign chocolate products to China in 2017, worth around $24 million, after Italy, Russia and Belgium, according to customs data. It had also become the largest buyer of US crude oil outside of Canada, but Kpler, which tracks worldwide oil shipments, shows crude cargoes to China have also dropped off in recent months.

"I might think the US$60 billion is a weak response to our US$200 (billion)", he said, while admitting that "there is a lot they can do to damage our companies in China".

These taxes come as similar levies on agricultural goods have been imposed by the European Union, Canada and Mexico in retaliation to Mr Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The move comes after Trump asked United States trade officials to consider imposing a 25% tariff on $200bn of Chinese goods, up from the 10% level originally proposed last month, as the two countries attempt to reach an agreement on trade.

The two countries have not had formal trade talks since early June.

But Trump raised the stakes this week with his threat to raise the tariff rate. "I keep my promises".

Trump stood outside the White House a week ago and declared victory that he had reduced the trade deficit in the spring, but the figure he was using to make that claim was that there was a slight reduction in the trade deficit from the first quarter of this year to the second quarter.

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In a message to the White House, China's finance ministry said exactly when the tariffs would come into force would depend on Washington's response.

The Chinese government has said that it will make a final decision on if, when, and how these tariffs will be implemented next month.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore on Aug 3, 2018.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a battle over American accusations that China's export economy benefits from unfair policies and subsidies, as well as from the theft of American technological know-how.

Friday's threat targeting a smaller amount of USA goods reflects the fact that Beijing is running out products for retaliation due to its lopsided trade balance with the United States.

Beijing can not match those measures dollar for dollar, as its exports far exceed imports. But they have rejected changing technology development plans they see as a path to prosperity and global influence.

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.

"The Chinese are also coping by lowering the rate of the yuan, while the USA can look towards countries in Southeast Asia as replacements for its imports, so it's not a big issue".


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