The tariff tiff between Brussels and Beijing ratcheted up on Thursday.

The European Union lodged a complaint at the World Trade Organisation against China over duties on EU made stainless steel tubes.

Under the WTO’s legal process, China now has up to 60 days to hold talks with Brussels to try and deal with the complaint.

The Chinese imposed high import tariffs on the tubes, which are used in the construction of new power plants.

They have said their steel industry has not been able to produce the same products as cheaply as its Japanese and European rivals and concluded that they were being sold for less than they cost to make – which is known as “dumping”.

It is the latest move in a burgeoning trade war, involving solar panels, wine, telecoms equipment and ceramics.

The complaint comes six months after Japan filed a similar case over the high-quality steel products that are crucial to China’s efforts to
upgrade and clean up its electricity infrastructure.

The European Union said Japan’s discussions with China, which the EU attended, had failed.

Japan has already asked the WTO to adjudicate, and the global trade body is poised to appoint three experts to judge the case. But the EU suit may be amalgamated with the Japanese complaint, effectively holding up Japan’s case for months.

A previous US complaint also targeted Chinese anti-dumping duties on high quality steel products for power plants in a separate case. China lost that case last year and has been told it has until July 31 to bring its rules into line with the WTO’s ruling.