Key U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday blasted China's "unjustifiable" decision to levy anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on certain U.S. vehicle imports and urged the White House to respond forcefully.
"This action appears to violate China's WTO [World Trade Organization] commitments," top Republicans and Democrats from the House Ways and Means Committee that handles taxes and trade said in a rare joint statement.
"China's actions are unjustifiable, and unfortunately, this appears to be just one more instance of impermissible Chinese retaliation against the United States and other trading partners," the lawmakers said.
"We urge the administration to exercise all available options to enforce U.S. rights, including, as appropriate, enforcing U.S. rights at the World Trade Organization," said Republican Representatives Dave Camp and Kevin Brady and Democrats Sandy Levin and Jim McDermott.
The announcement from China's commerce ministry was likely to fuel tensions between the world's two biggest economies as the campaigning ahead of the November 2012 U.S. elections heats up.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, who represents the U.S. auto-making state of Michigan, also called Beijing's decision "unjustified" and pressed U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to counter it.
"Instead of ending its unlawful trade practices, China is choosing to take further steps that are unauthorized by world trade rules. The livelihoods of American families and the integrity of global trade law are at stake," he said.
"I strongly urge the administration to take whatever actions are necessary through the WTO and any other available means to protect U.S. workers and manufacturers," he said in a statement.
The tariffs will be applied for two years to passenger cars and sports utility vehicles with engine capacities of 2.5 liters or more and will take effect Thursday, the ministry said in a statement.
The decision will affect vehicles produced by General Motors, Chrysler Group, BMW Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz US International, American Honda Motor and Ford Motor.
The move is likely to further strain ties between Beijing and Washington, which have recently locked horns over solar panels, chickens and the value of the Chinese currency.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011