BEIJING Washington's move to probe steel imports could trigger a trade dispute between the United States and its major trading partners, who are likely to take retaliatory steps, the official China Daily said in an editorial on Monday.
The article was the strongest official response yet to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday launching an investigation of China and other steel producers for dumping cheap steel products into the United States.
"By proposing an unjustified investigation into steel imports in the guise of safeguarding national security, the U.S. seems to be resorting to unilateralism to solve bilateral and multilateral problems," the China Daily said.
The probe could result in efforts by the United States to curb imports that will affect the interests of a number of its major trade partners, including China, it said.
"If the U.S. does take protectionist measures, then other countries are likely to take justifiable retaliatory actions against U.S. companies that have an advantage ... in fields such as finance and high-tech, leading to a tit-for-tat trade war that benefits no one," it said.
The article called on the United States, the world's top economy, to use the settlement mechanism under the World Trade Organization to resolve the dispute over steel.
Reducing imports will not alter the weak competitiveness of U.S. steelmakers, help restore U.S. manufacturing or bring back jobs, as President Trump hopes, it said.
It was a marked shift from official comments on Friday. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a briefing the country needed to ascertain the direction of any U.S. investigation before it could make a judgment.
(Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Tom Hogue)