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Biden calls for tripling tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum

Biden calls for tripling tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum


US President Joe Biden last week called for a tripling of tariffs on Chinese imports of steel and aluminum, echoing levies imposed by former President Donald Trump on a range of products from China.

Biden, who is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential candidate, said steel production in China is supported by public funds, allowing the product to be sold cheaply in the United States. He wants to increase significant tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum from 7.5% to 25%.

Trump, who is the Republican Party's favorite, said in February he would impose tariffs of more than 60% on Chinese goods if elected.

The rivalry between the two will likely intensify this election year as China's economy struggles to consume all it produces.

China now exports the most steel since 2016

It is already China which exports the most steel since it was accused of causing a glut almost a decade ago.

In March, China exported 9.9 million tonnes of steel, about 25% more than a year earlier and the highest figure since 2016, according to a study. Bloomberg Analysis official data earlier this month.

The rise in exports follows a slowdown in China's real estate sector that has reduced demand for these building materials.

“Steel, cement and construction machinery are among the worst-hit sectors, with excess capacity resulting from a structural contraction in demand,” Chim Lee, a China analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, wrote in a note dated April 15.

However, the United States is not a major importer of Chinese steel. The country is the seventh largest steel shipper in the United States, Biden's threat is therefore essentially symbolic.

“I want fair competition with China, not conflict, and we are in a stronger position to win the economic competition of the 21st century against China or anyone else,” Biden said last week .

Trade tensions will be high this election year

Beijing hit back at Biden's criticism of China's industrial policies and accused the United States of electioneering.

Lin Jian, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said at a press conference on Friday that the US president's remarks were “far-fetched”.

Lin added that China's steel sector is geared toward meeting domestic demand and does not receive any export-oriented subsidies. He also accused the United States of applying “double standards” by implementing domestic subsidies and using export controls under the pretext of national security.

“We urge the United States to be careful in its words and deeds, stop manipulating issues regarding China in the election year, stop transforming economic and trade issues into security issues, lift additional customs duties on China., and stop imposing new ones,” Lin said.

Yet China's current wave of steel exports is already spooking some countries, including Chile And Brazil which respectively imposed higher temporary customs duties and import quotas on this product.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen denounced Chinese overproduction earlier this month, saying the problem goes beyond the United States.

“China is now simply too big for the rest of the world to absorb this enormous capacity,” Yellen said during her visit to China.

With the US elections coming up and the Chinese economy in a painful transition, it will be a difficult year for trade relations.

“Trade tensions related to steel and construction machinery will be high in 2024,” wrote the EIU’s Lee.




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