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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Bristles as U.S. Sets Sanction Targets

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has targeted $3 billion in Chinese clothing and electronic products for what would be the largest trade sanctions in U.S. history, prompting a swift threat of retaliation from Beijing.

It marks the latest development in an increasingly bitter fight with the Asian country over piracy of American movies, records and computer programs.

The Chinese products would be subject to punitive tariffs of 100 percent or more starting June 17. They would take effect barring agreement before that date over U.S. demands that China do more to enforce a 1995 deal cracking down on rampant piracy that U.S. businesses claim are costing them $2.3 billion annually.

"Our action today should come as no surprise to China. We have given China every reasonable opportunity ... to come into compliance with its 1995 commitments," acting U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said. U.S. officials said the original list of $3 billion in products would be winnowed to $2 billion in goods that would be subject to the punitive tariffs, an amount roughly equal to the harm claimed by American companies.

The administration said it would accept public comments for 30 days from American importers in an effort to limit economic harm to U.S. consumers. Less than an hour after the announcement in Washington, the Chinese foreign trade ministry responded with counter-sanctions that ranged from vegetable oils to automobiles. No value was assigned to the sanctions list.

"With a view to safeguarding state sovereignty and national dignity, China shall have no other options but [to] take corresponding counter-retaliation measures," the ministry said in a statement, calling the administration's move in "total disregard of the overall interests of Sino-U.S. relations."

The biggest single item on the U.S. sanctions list is $750 million in Chinese silk clothing. The United States produces no silk, and China represents 70 percent of American imports, with the rest from countries such as Thailand, India and other nations in Asia.

In addition, the list included $555 million in clothing from man-made fibers, $470 million in cotton products and $204 million in other textile fibers.

The $1 billion in electronic sanctions includes $500 million in consumer electronics such as telephone answering machines, fax machines, cellular phones and space heaters, and $500 million in other consumer goods such as surf boards, gymnasium equipment and other sporting goods.

The comment period will give both countries a chance to resolve the dispute before the sanctions take effect. However, Chinese officials have rejected U.S. assertions that they are not living up to the 1995 agreement.