Beijing has rebuked the United States for planning to impose a hefty levy on Chinese-made passenger vehicle and light truck tyres, which it deems 'unreasonable and groundless'. Breaking its silence since the US action was announced on Monday, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday the government was 'highly concerned' about the proposed 55 per cent import duty in the first year, 45 per cent in the second and 35 per cent in the third in addition to an existing 3.4 to 4 per cent import tariff. The ministry rejected the US claim that low-cost Chinese tyres were inundating its market and would put the livelihood of the domestic industry and workers in jeopardy. 'During the next round of Sino-US economic discussions, the Chinese will urge the US to consider from the perspective of mutual interest and scrap the proposed import duties,' the ministry said. 'The US should not send a wrong signal on protectionism.' The dispute marks the latest in a string of investigations the US has launched on Chinese exports, despite Beijing's repeated opposition. Beijing insisted that the products did not cause any head-on competition with US-made tyres, but the US said the import duty plan would avoid causing market disruption. Beijing added that the planned restrictive measure would hurt US consumers' interest ultimately. The proposed duty is pending final approval by President Barack Obama in September. Some economists said the decision would signal how his administration handled trade frictions with China and a barometer of its foreign trade policy in general. Of the six members of the US International Trade Commission that drew up the proposal, two voted against saying it would do more harm than good on the US tyre industry.