Beijing accused Washington of “protectionism” and violating global trade rules on Saturday, Chinese media reported, after the United States imposed hefty tariffs on certain Chinese steel imports.

The US Department of Commerce on Thursday imposed duties ranging from 63 percent to 190 percent on Chinese exporters that it accuses of selling their products at below fair value or of being unfairly subsidised.

Photo: HKFP remix.

“The United States has violated World Trade Organization rules by neglecting the abundant proof offered by Chinese companies and has treated them unfairly simply because of their state-owned-enterprise status,” Wang Hejun from China’s Ministry of Commerce was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying.

“The root cause for current challenges facing the steel sector is the sluggish world economy and shrinking demand, which calls for global cooperation instead of protectionism.”

The US tariffs follow a similar move last month by the European Union, which unveiled taxes of between 30.7 percent and 64.9 percent on certain Chinese steel products as it seeks to protect struggling steel makers in Europe.

China makes more than half the world’s steel but a slowdown in its economy and sagging global demand has left the industry with huge excess capacity.

It has been accused of dumping its production on world markets, sinking prices and violating international trade agreements.

US President Donald Trump has previously threatened to impose 45 percent import tariffs on Chinese goods, saying the world’s second biggest economy had abused the US through currency manipulation and illegal subsidies.

In the face of criticism, Beijing has vowed to eliminate 100-150 million tonnes of steel capacity — out of a total of 1.2 billion tonnes — by 2020.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.