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China threatens corporate hit-list on eve of new tariffs on U.S. imports

Containers are seen at a logistics center near Tianjin Port

BEIJING (Reuters) – China threatened on Friday to unveil an unprecedented hit-list of “unreliable” foreign firms, groups and individuals that harm the interests of Chinese companies, as a slate of retaliatory tariffs on imported U.S. goods was set to kick in at midnight.

The commerce ministry did not single out any country or company, but the threat could further heighten tensions after Washington this month put Huawei on a blacklist that effectively blocks U.S. firms from doing business with the Chinese telecoms equipment giant.

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Beijing’s “unreliable entities list” would apply to those who violate market rules and the spirit of contracts, block supplies to Chinese companies for non-commercial reasons, “seriously damage the legitimate rights and interests” of Chinese companies and harm China’s national security, the ministry said.

A deluge of sharply worded commentaries, criticism and warnings from China in the last two weeks has intensified a battle of words with the United States that could complicate the run-up to any meeting between their respective leaders next month.

Earlier this month, Washington slapped additional tariffs of up to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods, accusing Beijing of reneging on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices. That prompted Beijing to hit back with additional levies on the majority of U.S. imports on a $60 billion target list – due to take effect on Saturday.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he plans to meet his counterpart, Xi Jinping, during the G20 summit, set for June 28-29 in Osaka, though China has not formally confirmed this.

Xi and Trump are likely to find it “difficult” to make major progress toward ending the trade war, a former top Chinese official said.

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