The US has launched an investigation into alleged dumping of aluminium foils by Chinese manufacturers.

The Commerce Department probe comes after US aluminium producers alleged that Chinese manufacturers were unfairly selling their aluminium below market prices.

If found guilty Chinese firms may be hit with anti-dumping duties, which are levied on foreign exporters who sell products at a lower price than what is charged in their home markets.

The Aluminum Association Trade Enforcement Working Group, a coalition of US aluminium foil producers, levelled dumping accusations against more than 230 Chinese companies on 9 March, with the estimated dumping margins, or the amount by which the normal value exceeded the export price, ranging from 38% to 140%.

The US imported an estimated $389m (£313m) worth of aluminium foil from China in 2016.

The Commerce Department has also launched a separate investigation into 26 alleged subsidy programmes from the Chinese government that give an unfair edge to the country's aluminium producers.

"The Department of Commerce intends to act swiftly to halt any unfair trade practices and will render our decisions at the earliest opportunity, while also assuring a full and fair assessment of the facts," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

"The Trump Administration is unequivocally committed to the vigorous enforcement of America's trade laws and will ensure U.S. businesses and workers are treated fairly."

The US International Trade Commission will review the charges levelled against the Chinese exporters by 24 April.

Last year, the US raised import duties on Chinese cold-rolled steel producers by more than 500% after finding that they had been selling their products below market prices.

US President Donald Trump has frequently spoken out on a perceived imbalance in the trade relationship between Washington and Beijing and has threatened to impose punishing tariffs on all Chinese goods entering America.

Trump also accused China of stealing American jobs and manipulating its currency during his campaign last year.

"Our hope on the Chinese side is that, no matter what bumps this relationship may run into, it will continue to move forward in a positive direction," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month when questioned about tensions with the Trump administration.

"We don't want to see any trade war breaking out between the two countries. That wouldn't make our trade fairer."