WASHINGTON/Beijing (Kyodo) -- The United States and China invoked 25 percent duties on an additional $16 billion of each other's imports on Thursday in an escalation of the tariff war between the world's two largest economies.
The action followed an earlier round of tariffs in July, when Washington imposed 25 percent duties on $34 billion in Chinese goods and Beijing retaliated with tariffs on an equal value of U.S. goods.
Amid rising concerns that trade tensions could undermine the global economy, U.S. President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs of up to 25 percent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese products could take effect as early as next month, further ramping up measures in response to Beijing's alleged intellectual property and technology theft.
"I have great respect for President Xi (Jinping), great respect, tremendous respect for China. But they have taken advantage of our country for decades," Trump said in a rally Tuesday in West Virginia.
Trump has demanded that China improve market access and intellectual property protections for American companies, remove industrial subsidies and cut its massive and chronic trade surplus with the United States.
Immediately after the second round of U.S. tariffs was implemented Thursday, China lambasted Washington, saying its trade restrictions "obviously" violate World Trade Organization rules.
"China firmly opposes" the U.S. action, the Asian nation's Commerce Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also expressed readiness to file a challenge against the U.S. tariffs with the WTO.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters later in the day that China has taken "necessary steps to safeguard the multilateral trading system."
The U.S. goods trade deficit with China totaled $375.23 billion last year, nearly half the U.S. trade deficit globally, according to U.S. Commerce Department data.
If tariffs are placed on the additional $200 billion worth of Chinese products, the United States would be taxing about half of the goods it imports from China each year.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned China not to make light of Trump's determination to push for changes in Beijing's "unfair" trade practices.
"The Chinese government, in its totality, must not underestimate President Trump's toughness and willingness to continue this battle to eliminate tariffs and nontariff barriers and quotas, to stop the theft of intellectual property and to stop the forced transfer of technology," Kudlow told U.S. business news network CNBC last week.
In July, Trump said the United States could ultimately raise tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese products -- nearly the total value of U.S. imports from the country last year.
China and the United States, meanwhile, have held vice-ministerial-level talks over trade issues since Tuesday.
"We hope that the United States will talk with China in a rational and practical manner, bringing about good results," Lu said.