China slapped "special duties" on imports of Japanese made cellular telephones, air conditioners and automobiles Tuesday, according to reports in state-run media.
"Relevant Chinese government departments have decided to impose special duties on imported automobiles, mobile phones and phones in vehicles, and air conditioners made in Japan," said the Xinhua news agency. Exact details of the tariffs were not announced in the report.
The move was in reaction to a decision by Tokyo to impose tariffs on imports of cheap Chinese mushrooms, leeks and tatami rushes in a bid to protect domestic industries. Japan's decision was taken in accordance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which allow countries to take such action if they are seriously threatening a domestic industry, the Japanese government said when it introduced the ban earlier this year.
Quoting a Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) spokeswoman in Beijing, Xinhua said the "unjust trade limitation measures and discriminatory actions of Japan" had "seriously harmed" Chinese industries and "gravely affected" bilateral trade relations between the two countries.
Japan's exports of cell phones to China in the past year accounted for around 11 billion yen ($US91.7 million) worth of trade, according to Japanese public television NHK.
The row mirrors one that has erupted twice in the last year between China and South Korea. Faced with growing imports of cheap garlic, Seoul hiked import duties on the Chinese product from 30 to 315 per cent in a move that outraged the Chinese. Beijing responded by banning imports of South Korean cell phone handsets and polyethylene.
The row, which cost Samsung Electronics more than $US2 million, was defused when the two countries renegotiated import quotas and Seoul agreed to buy 32,000 tons of garlic per year. Its failure to do this almost resulted in the sanctions on cell phones being reimposed earlier this year.