The US and China implemented 25 per cent tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other’s goods on Thursday, ratcheting up the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The latest trade escalation came as officials from both the countries met for tariff negotiations in Washington. So far, both the countries have taxed each other’s goods worth $100 billion in total.

The US imposed 25 per cent tariffs on another $16 billion of Chinese goods just after midnight. The tax targeted 279 Chinese products, including chemical products, motorcycles, speedometers and antennas, the US media reported.

Beijing responded immediately with 25 per cent tariffs on an equal amount of American goods such as chemical products, diesel fuel, medical instruments, cars and buses.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement that it “has no other alternatives but to take counter measures”.

It added that it will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Beijing filed an initial complaint at the WTO in July during the imposition of Washington’s first round of tariffs.

China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen is already in Washington for low-level talks, but hopes are not high that they will bring the dispute to an end, reports said.

US President Donald Trump initiated the trade spat in July in an effort to punish China for what he says were unfair trade practices, such as stealing intellectual property.

In the first round of tariffs that month, Washington imposed taxes on Chinese goods worth $34 billion. Beijing had responded in kind.

The second round of tariffs came despite testimony to the US Trade Representative’s Office by dozens of US companies and industry groups.

Many said the new tax would hurt their businesses and warned that they would not be able to absorb another tax without raising prices for US consumers.

Earlier, Trump indicated that he was ready to impose duties on over $500 billion of Chinese goods exported annually to Washington unless China agrees to sweeping changes in its intellectual property practices, industrial subsidy programmes and tariff structure.

Beijing denies Washington’s allegations and insists it adheres to WTO rules.