US President Joe Biden said he will try to triple the tariff rate on imports of steel and aluminum from China, in an attempt to confront what he considers its “unfair practices” and protect American workers.

As reported by Kyodo News, senior administration officials said Biden will refer to the plan when he delivers an afternoon speech at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a key battleground state for November’s presidential election.

Currently, the average tariff rate on steel and aluminum products from China is 7.5%, according to the White House. The officials said Biden will ask the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to study the possibility of tripling the rate under Section 301.

The section of the country’s trade law of 1974 authorizes the use of tariffs against the allegedly unfair practices of a foreign country. It was a favorite tool of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, to reduce trade deficits with China and other countries.

“In manufacturing sectors like steel, China is already producing more than China or the world can easily absorb. “China’s subsidies and other forms of support lead to exports flooding global markets at artificially low prices, undercutting cleaner American steel,” Lael Brainard, Biden’s top economic adviser, told reporters.

He said Biden’s “strategic, balanced and selective” approach has been formulated “in close collaboration with industry stakeholders and unions who have directly experienced the impacts of China’s unfair trade practices for years.”

Among other measures, officials said Biden is directing his team to block China’s evasion of tariffs on such products from Mexico by cooperating with the neighboring country.

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China alone accounts for nearly 50 percent of global steel production and its export prices are 40 percent lower than those of the United States, according to one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Therefore, it is important that these new tariffs, if applied, provide a greater level playing field against China’s unfair trade practices,” the official said.

The announcement of the intention to raise the tariff rate, which was reduced to 7.5 percent from 15 percent in February 2020, came after the USTR office last month received a petition from the USW and four other powerful unions.

Biden maintains close ties with unions. For Biden, gaining strong support from them is crucial to his hopes of defeating Trump, who has trailed the incumbent president in some opinion polls.

The USW also strongly opposes Nippon Steel Corp.’s planned acquisition of United States Steel Corp, also based in Pittsburgh.

In a statement released in mid-March, Biden said: “US Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital that it remains a domestically owned and operated American steel company.”

The merger proposal, announced in December, was accepted by the US steelmaker, and its shareholders overwhelmingly approved the $14.1 billion deal last week.

Trump has also said he would “block” the Japanese company’s plan to acquire US Steel and it has increasingly become a political issue.


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