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A shopper eyes display of seafood including oysters from the U.S. at a supermarket in Beijing on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. China announced higher tariffs Monday on $60 billion worth of American goods in retaliation for President Donald Trump's latest penalties on Chinese products. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING — China's trade with the United States plunged last month as a tariff war battered exporters on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

And there's no letup in sight: Tensions between the world's two biggest economies continue to simmer even though President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, called a ceasefire two weeks ago.

Data out Friday showed that the hostilities are taking a toll.

Chinese imports of U.S. goods fell 31.4% from a year earlier to $9.4 billion, while exports to the American market declined 7.8% to $39.3 billion, according to Chinese customs data. China's trade surplus with the United States widened by 3% to $29.9 billion.

The two countries are fighting over U.S. allegations that China deploys predatory tactics - including stealing trade secrets and forcing foreign firms to hand over technology - in a headlong drive to challenge American technological dominance.

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports, drawing retaliatory sanctions from Beijing on $110 billion in U.S. products. China also directed importers to find non-U.S. suppliers.

The dispute won't be easy to solve. Mistrust between Washington and Beijing runs high. And a substantive solution likely would require China to scale back its ambitions to become a world leader in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and electric cars.

Envoys talked by phone Tuesday in their first contact since Trump and Xi met last month in Japan, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said. It gave no details or a date for more contacts.

"Our base case remains that trade talks will break down again before long," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report.

Trade weakness has added to pressure on Xi's government to shore up economic growth and avoid politically dangerous job losses.

The Trump-Xi truce calmed jittery financial markets. But the cease-fire is under strain: Each side has complained the other isn't living up to commitments made when the leaders met June 29 at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

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