China's commerce ministry said the country will levy anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on certain US vehicle imports which is likely, following an earlier skirmish over tyres, and other similar spats, to increase trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies.

The tariffs will be applied for two years to passenger cars and sports utility vehicles with engine sizes over 2.5 litres and will take effect on Thursday (15 December), the ministry said in a statement cited by Reuters.

The decision will affect vehicles produced in the US by General Motors, Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, American Honda and Ford.

Beijing and Washington have also recently quarelled over solar panels, chickens and the value of the Chinese currency, the news agency noted.

China said the investigation into US auto imports found domestic vehicle manufacturers had "suffered substantial damages" due to the dumping and subsidies.

The anti-dumping penalties range from 2% to 21.5% while the anti-subsidy tariffs will be set at a maximum 12.9%, the ministry said.

According to Reuters, state media had said previously that the total number of vehicles affected by the tariffs would not exceed 50,000 units a year - a small fraction of the total number of vehicles sold in China.