TIT-for-tat trade tensions are escalating between Beijing and Washington after China raised import duties on a $3 billion (£2.1bn) list of pork, apples and other products in a bitter dispute over trade and industrial policy.

President Xi Jinping’s government said it was responding to a move by the US to raise tariffs on steel and aluminium imported from China.

The tariff increase announced yesterday will hit American farm states, many of which voted for US president Donald Trump in 2016.

Beijing is imposing a 25 per cent tariff on US pork and aluminium scrap and 15 per cent on sparkling wine, steel pipe used by oil and gas companies, and an array of fruits and nuts including apples, walnuts and grapes.

These American farm exports to China last year totalled nearly $20bn (£14.2bn), including $1.1bn (£782 million) of pork products.

However, there was no indication whether Beijing might exempt Chinese-owned American suppliers.

OH yes. The tariff rises are just one facet of widening tensions with Washington, Europe and Japan over a state-led economic model that they complain hampers market access, protects Chinese companies and subsidises exports in violation of Beijing’s free-trade commitments.

Companies are already looking ahead to a bigger fight over Trump’s approval of higher duties on up to $50bn (£35.5bn) of Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Forecasters said the impact of Beijing’s move should be limited, but investors are worried that the global recovery might be set back if other governments respond by raising their own import barriers.

Economist Taimur Baig, of DBS Group, said the tariffs “signal a most unwelcome development, which is that countries are becoming protectionist”.

In commercial terms, however, he said they are “not very substantial” compared with China’s $150bn (£106bn) in annual imports of US goods.

SO far Beijing has defended the move, with the finance ministry saying the US tariff hike “has seriously damaged our interests”.

In a statement, it said: “Our country advocates and supports the multilateral trading system.”

China’s tariff increase “is a proper measure adopted by our country using World Trade Organisation rules to protect our interests”, the statement added.

The US buys little Chinese steel and aluminium, but analysts said Beijing was certain to retaliate, partly to show its toughness ahead of possible bigger disputes in future.

According to Chinese officials, Beijing is willing to negotiate, but if it comes to a confrontation it will “fight to the end”.

IT reflects the clash between Trump’s promise to narrow the US trade surplus with China, which was a record $375.2bn (£267bn) last year – and the ambitious plans from Beijing to develop Chinese industry and technology.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin last year complained that the Chinese government’s dominant role in the country’s economy was to blame for its yawning trade surplus. State-owned companies dominate Chinese industries including oil and gas, telecoms, banking, coal mining, utilities and airlines. They also benefit from monopolies and low-cost access to energy, land and bank loans.

In 2013 the ruling Communist Party promised to give market forces the “decisive role” in allocating resources, but at the same time Xi has affirmed plans to build up state industries the party says are the central pillar of the economy.

“The thing that is going to be more challenging for Beijing is if the US, European Union and Japan get together and start taking measures on state-owned enterprises,” said Baig.

SEVERAL foreign governments have also accused Beijing of violating free trade by requiring vehicle makers and other foreign companies to work through state-owned Chinese partners.

This requires them to give technology to potential competitors.

A US official last month cited as “hugely problematic” Beijing’s sweeping plan to create Chinese competitors in electric cars, robots, advanced manufacturing and other fields over the next decade. Business groups complain that the strategy – Made in China 2025 – will limit or outright block access to those industries.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang, said last month there will be “no mandatory requirement for technology transfers”.