Relations between the US and China have become  increasingly fractious with regard to trade.

Relations between the US and China have become increasingly fractious with regard to trade.

US agri-food giant Cargill has expressed fears about an escalating trade war between the US and China.

News agency Reuters is reporting that, in prepared comments sent to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Cargill's vice president of global corporate affairs, said: "History has shown that the use of tariffs is unsuccessful in achieving lasting solutions - the current challenges between the United States and China are no different."

Relations between the US and China have become fractious in recent weeks. President Donald Trump has threatened tariffs on imports of Chinese goods, and China has threatened to retaliate with duties on US products, including food items such as pork, beef and soybeans.

"Cargill has significant concerns with the potential enactment of unilateral tariffs and investment restrictions against China, and threats of escalating tariffs," wrote Boughner Vorwerk,

"While we understand the Administration's intent is to generate substantive bilateral dialogue, we are concerned that this approach will not effectively advance the goal of addressing distortive trade practices."

Today (15 May), Lighthizer will begin holding three days of public hearings in Washington on proposed US tariffs of US$50bn on Chinese goods. 

Cargill's comments come as the US Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, said the US and China are still "very far apart" on resolving trade frictions.

Early last month the trade row intensified with both countries issuing details on further tariffs and with the food industry again caught in the crossfire.

Washington listed the items from China it proposes will be hit with an additional duty of 25% but within hours, Beijing hit back, announcing its own plans to levy a 25% tariff on US imports that included beef, soybeans and whiskey.

The spat started with US measures against Chinese steel and aluminium imports, which led to Beijing imposing tariffs on 128 different US products.