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Biden unveils tariff hikes on Chinese EVs, solar cells, semiconductors, other imports

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Washington, May 14 (IANS) U.S. President Joe Biden plans to quadruple tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) and hike duties for solar cells, semiconductors and other “strategic” sectors, the White House said Tuesday, as he is revving up his reelection campaign.

The Biden administration announced a new package of tariff increases, casting it as an endeavour to protect American workers and businesses from what it calls China’s unfair trade practices, and accusing China of flooding global markets with “artificially low-priced exports.”

Under the package, reports Yonhap news agency, it plans to hike tariffs this year on Chinese EVs from 25 per cent to 100 per cent, on solar cells from 25 per cent to 50 per cent, on certain steel and aluminium products from up to 7.5 per cent to 25 per cent and on lithium-ion EV batteries from 7.5 per cent to 25 per cent.

Tariffs on semiconductors will double to 50 per cent by next year while those on certain medical products, such as syringes and needles, will increase to 50 per cent from zero this year. Tariffs on natural graphite and permanent magnets will also rise from zero to 25 per cent in 2026.

Following a yearslong review, Biden directed his trade representative to increase tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 on US$18 billion worth of imports from China, according to his office.

Renewing its criticism of China’s “unfair” and “non-market” practices, the White House underscored that American workers and businesses can “outcompete anyone” as long as they have fair competition.

Washington has repeatedly raised concerns over China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation, which it claims have continued to impose a burden on U.S. commerce.

“Following an in-depth review by the U.S. Trade Representative, President Biden is taking action to protect American workers and American companies from China’s unfair trade practices,” the White House said in a release.

“To encourage China to eliminate its unfair trade practices regarding technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation, the president is directing increases in tariffs across strategic sectors,” it added.

Commenting on the tariffs, Trade Representative Katherine Tai reiterated her commitment to using “every lever” of her office to promote American jobs and investments.

“Today, we serve our statutory goal to stop the PRC’s harmful technology transfer-related acts, policies and practices, including its cyber intrusions and cyber theft,” she said, referring to China by its official name, the People’s Republic of China.

“I take this charge seriously, and I will continue to work with my partners across sectors to ensure any action complements the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to expand opportunities for American workers and manufacturers.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo framed the tariff package as Biden’s “decisive” action to safeguard America’s industrial competitiveness and economic security.

“We know the PRC’s playbook — we’ve seen their non-market actions on solar and steel — and cannot allow China to undermine U.S. supply chains by flooding the market with artificially cheap products,” she said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called attention to her trip to China last month, where she raised concerns over China’s industrial overcapacity.

“President Biden and I have seen firsthand the impacts of surges of certain artificially cheap Chinese imports on American communities in the past, and we will not tolerate that again,” she said.

“These overcapacity concerns are widely shared by our partners across advanced economies and emerging markets, motivated not by anti-China policy but by a desire to prevent damaging economic dislocation from unfair economic practices.”

The hikes came as former President Donald Trump has floated the idea of raising tariffs to 60 per cent or more on all imports from China in addition to his proposal for a 10 per cent “universal” baseline tariff.

–IANS

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