Asian markets have tumbled after the Trump administration's move to impose tariffs on another US$200 billion ($293.4b) of Chinese exports was criticised by Beijing, upping the ante in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 1.2 per cent to 21,932.21 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.6 per cent to 2,281.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.7 per cent to 28,208.91. The Shanghai Composite index tumbled 2.3 per cent to 2,761.90. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.8 per cent to 6,211.20. Shares also fell in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Read more: Kiwi dollar caught in the US-China trade crossfire

A strong performance by household goods makers lifted major US indexes. The S&P 500 index rose 0.3 per cent to 2,793.84 on Wednesday, climbing to its highest level since February 1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.6 per cent to 24,919.66. The Nasdaq composite picked up 3 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 7,759.20. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 0.5 per cent to 1,695.62 after big gains over the last five days.

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The US Trade Representative said Washington is preparing to impose 10 per cent tariffs on another US$200b in Chinese imports, including 6,031 product lines ranging from burglar alarms to electric lamps and fish sticks.

The office will take public comments and hold hearings on the plan before reaching a decision after August 31.

China's Commerce Ministry called the new wave of US tariffs "totally unacceptable" on Wednesday and vowed to protect its core interests.

The ministry did not offer more details, but Beijing had earlier threatened "comprehensive measures" if more tariffs were imposed.

On Friday, the US slapped 25 per cent tariffs on US$34b in Chinese productsy, and Beijing responded with similar duties on US imports.

The Trump administration said the new levies were a response to China's decision to retaliate. The initial US tariff list focused on Chinese industrial products to help limit the impact on American consumers. The expanded list would hit products that US households buy.

- AP