Cargo cranes unload imports at the Port of Seattle in Seattle. Chinese imports are becoming more expensive in the U.S. as tariffs kick in and China has launched a case at the WTO. (Associated Press)

China has lodged a case against the United States with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over U.S. import duties, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said on Monday.

The United States on Sunday began imposing 15 per cent tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods — including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions — as China began imposing new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war.

The latest tariffs actions violated the consensus reached by leaders of China and the U.S. in a meeting in Osaka, the Commerce Ministry said in the statement. China will firmly defend its legal rights in accordance with WTO rules, it said. 

The U.S. under the Trump administration has said the WTO is making trade unfair for American companies and is blocking attempts to appoint new people to a panel to adjudicate cases as it takes an increasingly protectionist stance.

The U.S.-China trade war has roiled stock markets and triggered signs of recession in the U.S. In China, exporters are struggling in the face of U.S. tariff hikes.

The business magazine Caixin said Monday its monthly purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.4 from July’s 49.9 on a 100-point scale, on which numbers above 50 show activity increasing.

The magazine said that indicated “renewed improvement,” but its gauge of new orders fell to its lowest level this year.

A separate survey released Saturday by an industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, showed activity declining to 49.5 from July’s 49.7. It said market demand was “relatively weak.”

Beijing has propped up economic growth by boosting government spending on construction.

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