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China's gaping trade surplus with the United States has always been a bone of contention, with the president accusing the country of unfair practices, stealing American jobs and thieving its technological know-how.

The Trump administration announced today that it will go ahead with imposing 25 per cent tariffs on an additional $16 billion ($NZ24 billion) in Chinese imports.

This is the second tranche of tariffs following the July 6 levy on approximately $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, the USTR said.

During the opening hour of trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down almost 40-points to 25,589 and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost around 12-points to 7,871.

So far, financial markets have shrugged off the first round of trade duties.

The move marks the latest escalation of a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

Customs officials will begin collecting the border tax August 23, the Office of the US Trade Representative said.

The dispute has continued to escalate, as Trump last week threatened to jack up the tariff rate on the next $200 billion in Chinese imports his administration plans to target to 25%, from the planned 10%.

It is the second time the U.S. has slapped tariffs on Chinese goods, despite persistent warnings by American businesses it will raise the price of goods for consumers. China has vowed to retaliate to an equal degree.

Explaining the decision, the USTR cited an "exhaustive" investigation that found China using joint venture requirements, investment restrictions and licensing procedures to pressure USA companies into technology transfers.

Beijing has called on USA officials to be "cool headed", but fired back warning it would impose duties on an additional $60 billion in U.S. goods, a threat the White House dismissed as "weak".

Even as a trade war brews between the two nations (see the full timeline), exports from China to the USA rose by double digits in July, the Associated Press reported.

United States industries and farmers have been caught in the crossfire, and the Trump administration announced $12bn in aid to help farmers hurt by Chinese duties on crops such as soybeans.