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Biden calls on trade rep to consider tripling tariffs on Chinese steel

The White House on Wednesday rolled out a slew of actions intended to protect the U.S. steel industry from Chinese exports flooding the market as President Biden heads to Pittsburgh to speak at the United Steelworkers headquarters.

“President Biden understands that American steel built our nation, and steel mills helped build the American middle class with stable, good paying jobs,” National Economic Council director Lael Brainard said on a call with reporters.

Brainard said Biden’s strategy on protecting U.S. steel production is “strategic, balanced and targeted” and has been developed in partnership with unions and industry stakeholders, as well as international allies who are also feeling the effects of China’s “over-capacity and artificially low priced exports.”

Biden is calling on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to consider tripling the existing tariff rate on Chinese steel and aluminum imports from the existing rate of 7.5 percent under Section 301. The decision on whether to raise tariffs will follow the conclusion of an ongoing review by the USTR’s office.

A senior administration official downplayed concerns that an increase in tariffs could lead to higher inflation, noting prices have come down significantly from their peak and arguing the steel tariffs would protect American jobs.

In addition, the USTR is initiating an investigation into China’s trade practices in the shipbuilding, maritime and logistics sectors. The move follows a complaint filed by the United Steelworkers and four other unions, which claimed China’s steel practices are built on non-market policies, the White House said.

The Department of Commerce also plans to take action against countries that flood the market with cheap steel, building on the agency’s roughly two dozen investigations into anti-competitive actions by Chinese exporters.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration looks to counter China’s steel exports, which experts worry are flooding the market as Beijing seeks to boost its own economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The Financial Times reported that Chinese steel exports are at an eight-year high and increased roughly 32 percent in the first two months of 2024.

Biden’s visit to Pittsburgh will underscore his support for union workers and will highlight his administration’s investments in manufacturing jobs, which have bounced back significantly in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president is also expected to reiterate his support for U.S. Steel in the face of a proposed sale to Japan’s Nippon Steel. Biden last month called it “vital” for the company to remain domestically owned.

Source: The Hill

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