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Trump's tariffs will spark trade war with China, warn experts

By Andrew Buncombe

China is likely to respond directly to Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on up to US$60bn of goods and trigger a bilateral trade war that will hurt both countries, experts have said.

Mr Trump campaigned for the White House with a promise to secure "better deals" between the US and its trading partners, claiming that previous administrations had allowed American firms and workers to lose out.

Having announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports earlier this month, he signed an order opening the way to punish China for what he said was the theft of American technology.

"It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world," Mr Trump said of the US-China trade imbalance.

But experts said Beijing would not take the move sitting down. Rather, China was likely already preparing to respond, and possibly in ways the US might not initially notice.

"I think we are making policy as if we are still the dominant superpower in the world," Robert Ross, Professor of political science at Boston College, said.

"But China has become a major power and a major market, and it has the ability to retaliate."

He said in recent years, China had imposed or threatened to impose, its own tariffs on several countries, including Japan, Norway and Germany, as part of a broader political strategy.

"They have ways to impose a cost," Mr Ross said of China's way of responding. "Suddenly, they impose a block on soy bean imports, or they start asking questions about [an American car's] emissions standards."

He said if China did not respond, it would fear that other countries might seek to follow the US's actions. Mr Trump has talked of trying to develop a "coalition" of countries to impose tariffs on China but Mr Ross said he doubted it would get far.

Earlier yesterday, Donald Trump's lead lawyer in the Russia investigation left the legal team. John Dowd confirmed his decision in an email, saying he "loves the president" and wishes him well.

The move comes several days after Trump added a new lawyer to the team, former US attorney Joseph diGenova.

Sources told the Washington Post that Mr Dowd's departure was largely a mutual decision between him and Mr Trump.

The president reportedly lost confidence in Mr Dowd's ability to deal with Mr Mueller's probe during the clashes that have played out in recent weeks.

Mr Dowd had reportedly become frustrated with Mr Trump's interest in bringing new attorneys onto the team.

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