© Reuters / stringer
US President Donald Trump has announced yet another major hike of existing and future tariffs on some $550 billion in Chinese goods, criticizing Beijing's attempt to offset the losses as 'unfair' and 'politically motivated.'

Duties on $250 million worth of Chinese goods already taxed at 25 percent will increase to 30 percent starting on October 1, the US president tweeted on Friday, enraged that Beijing dared to respond to his previous tariff jab. In addition, he said, $300 billion in imports set to be taxed at 10 percent starting on September 1 will be taxed at 15 percent instead.

The latest salvo in the raging US-China trade war ups the ante after Beijing applied duties of its own to $75 billion in American goods, sending US markets into a tailspin. Chinese countermeasures envisage 5 to 10 percent duties on American farm products including beef, pork, and soybeans, a 25 percent duty on cars, and for the first time, a tax on US crude oil.

US stock market indexes fell precipitously on Friday, with the Dow Jones plummeting 700 points at one point amid Trump's threats to cut off all trade with Beijing. When he virtually ordered US companies to "immediately start looking for an alternative to China," it inspired further market panic.

Still unsure who was a "bigger enemy" to the United States - Chinese President Xi Jinping, or Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell - Trump spent Friday trying to convince his Twitter followers that China was the sole aggressor in this trade war.

Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2018, Trump has been playing the victim card, routinely labeling China a currency manipulator that steals US technologies and kills thousands of Americans with synthetic opioids, in between the futile trade talks.

US businesses are growing increasingly desperate over the stalemate, urging Trump to put the tit-for-tat tariff war on hold and seek common ground with Xi. The US tech industry is set to lose billions as Trump seems determined to cut off Chinese companies like Huawei from American markets, despite a temporary reprieve. Meanwhile, US agriculture, already beset by catastrophic rainfall, flooding, and tornadoes over the past year, is staring at plummeting returns as China - one of its largest customers - looks further afield for farm products.