Photo: Reuters

The US-China trade war countdown has reached its final hours, with tariffs on US$34 billion in Chinese imports to the US set to go into effect at 12:01am US Eastern Time on Friday.

Chinese authorities have retaliatory tariffs locked and loaded, though they confirmed this week that they will not be implemented until the administration of US President Donald Trump officially pulls the trigger.

This first round of tariffs from the Trump administration focuses on products from the industrial sector that “contribute to or benefit from” Made in China 2025 policies, according to the US trade authority. An additional $16 billion worth are planned for a later date to round out the $50 billion figure originally threatened by Trump.

There is not the slightest indication that the White House is taking part in last-ditch efforts to negotiate a ceasefire before Friday, and China has taken the opportunity to scold the White House pre-emptively.

“Put simply, the US is opening fire on the world – and itself,” Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday.

“As China is an important supporter and participant of globalization and global supply chains, many of [China’s] exports are produced by non-Chinese companies,” Gao noted.

Of the $34 billion worth of goods to be subject to tariffs, the spokesman said that around 59% were made by overseas companies, a large proportion of which were US-based.

China is prepared to levy tariffs on an equal value worth of US goods, up to the $50 billion level. It would be impossible for China to match Trump’s steeper tariff threats because they exceed the total value of China’s imports from the US.

At a separate press briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China stood with the rest of the world in opposition to unilateral trade actions and would do what is necessary to protect its interests.

When asked whether negotiations with the White House were ongoing, Lu said, “I can tell you, the US is very clear about China’s stance.”

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