Biden wants to hike tariffs on imports of Chinese steel and aluminum

By Asma Khalid (NPR)
April 17, 2024 5:36 p.m.
President Biden speaks during a campaign event in Scranton, Penn, on April 16 during the first of three days in the battleground state.

President Biden speaks during a campaign event in Scranton, Penn, on April 16 during the first of three days in the battleground state.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

President Biden wants to triple tariffs on imports of Chinese steel and aluminum, a case he will make in a speech on Wednesday at the headquarters of the United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh, White House officials told reporters ahead of the remarks.


It's the latest in a series of steps Biden has taken to try to shore up his support in a state that could make or break his reelection bid. Former President Donald Trump had made support for the steel industry a central part of his 2016 and 2020 runs for office. Trump has said he wants to increase tariffs on a range of imports if he wins this November.

Since taking office in 2020, Biden has largely kept in place the signature tariff and trade policies of his predecessor, while also creating massive government programs to spur infrastructure projects, the semiconductor manufacturing sector and clean energy projects. Those programs have spurred demand for steel.

Chinese steel imports account for less than 1% of U.S. demand, officials told reporters. But Chinese subsidies and programs mean its steel prices are 40% lower than U.S. prices, and the Biden administration is worried that there could be a surge of exports.

"China's policy-driven overcapacity poses a serious risk to the future of the American steel and aluminum industry," said Lael Brainard, Biden's top economic adviser.


"The president understands we must invest in American manufacturing, but we also have to protect those investments and those workers from unfair exports," she told reporters.

Biden officials are in Mexico to talk about Chinese steel

Biden will ask U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai — who has been reviewing tariffs on Chinese goods since Biden took office — to triple tariffs for steel and aluminum under what's known as Section 301. Currently, those tariffs average 7.5%.

Biden also sent a team of officials to Mexico to talk about preventing Chinese steel from making its way into the United States under preferential rates given to Mexico.

"I want to emphasize our desire to cooperate and partner with Mexico on addressing imports coming in to the North American market as a way of circumventing tariffs," a senior administration official told reporters.

"I'm not going to get ahead of the diplomatic conversations that have happened today and that will be happening in the days and weeks to come. But I think we're hoping to come to a mutually acceptable solution with Mexico, because this is a problem that affects both of our economies," the official said.

The USW recently endorsed Biden after he took the unusual step of speaking out against a takeover deal by Japanese company Nippon Steel for U.S. Steel, which is based in Pittsburgh.

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