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A 12:01 a.m. start on Friday in Beijing would mean it would take effect just after noon on July 5 in Washington.

China has said it will not "fire the first shot" in a trade war with the United States, but its customs agency made clear on Thursday that Chinese tariffs on American goods would take effect immediately after USA duties on Chinese goods are put in place.

There was no evidence of last-minute negotiations between USA and Chinese officials, business sources in Washington and Beijing said.

The Commerce Ministry statement didn't provide details on its retaliation.

"There should be no doubting Beijing's resolve", the newspaper said.

In response, the world's second-largest economy warned it would take the "necessary countermeasures", triggering what is now a full-blown trade conflict.

And Beijing's tactics may go beyond tariffs to include arbitrary quarantines and a costly uptick in customs inspections.

China implemented retaliatory tariffs on US goods just after noon on Friday, immediately after the USA began collecting additional tariffs on Chinese imports, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing an unnamed spokesperson from China's General Administration of Customs.

The dispute reflects foreign frustration with China's state-led industrial development strategy, which Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say hurt their companies and violate its market-opening commitments. At the same time, Beijing has reiterated it will roll out tit-for-tat tariffs as tensions rapidly escalate.

At the stroke of midnight Washington time, the U.S. pulled the trigger on 25-per cent duties on about US$34 billion in Chinese machinery, electronics and high-tech equipment, including autos, computer hard drives and LEDs.

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China's customs agency said Chinese tariffs on United States goods would take effect immediately after the U.S. duties on Chinese goods kicked in, although Beijing has said it will not be the first to pull the trigger. Trump said. "So we have 50 plus 200 plus nearly 300".

The first round targets Chinese industrial goods, not consumer products, in an attempt to limit the impact on US households, but companies that rely on Chinese-made machinery or components may eventually have to pass along increased costs to customers.

A 25% tariff is now being applied to $US34 billion worth of Chinese goods entering the United States.

The American tariffs are the result of Mr Trump's attempt to protect USA jobs and stop "unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China".

Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday that the proposed USA tariffs would hit many American and foreign companies operating in China and disrupt their supplies of components and assembly work.

The US tariffs announced so far would affect the equivalent of 0.6 percent of global trade and account for 0.1 percent of global GDP, according to Morgan Stanley. The yuan, which has weakened sharply against a broadly strong us dollar in recent weeks, was trading at 6.6480 per dollar as of 4:30 p.m. USA tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have provoked retaliatory measures against billions of dollars of American exports. China did not specify what items would be targeted with retaliatory tariffs, but it has previously threatened to hit American agricultural products such as pork and soy beans. "It's very hard to see this happening in the current environment".

"China will never fire the first shot", Gao said.

Asked whether USA companies would be targeted with "qualitative measures" in China in a trade war, Gao said the government would protect the legal rights of all foreign companies in the country. "But it is applying the brakes to a global economy that has less durable momentum than appears to be the case", Rob Carnell, chief economist at ING, said in a note to clients.

"There are no winners in a trade war", said the chamber's chairman, William Zarit, in a statement. "For example, my auto is from America".

The new tariffs will bring back a level of American protectionism that has not been seen since 1970 when the average charge stood at 6.5%. "Perhaps the Trump administration can only clear its mind after a fight". "And so I'd expect the two sides to pursue some sort of face-saving deal that looks good on paper but is not enduring".