Biden aims at China's EV market with 'strategic' new tariffs

The new subsidies affect electric vehicles, solar panels, semiconductors, aluminium and steel

US President Joe Biden signs orders that increase tariffs on China. Bloomberg
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US President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled steep new tariffs on Chinese imports, including electric vehicle batteries, as he tries to win over American voters who are concerned about the economy during a critical election year.

Mr Biden said he would increase the tariff rate on Chinese-made EVs from 25 per cent to 100 per cent to offset what he called Beijing's unfair practices, and level the playing field for US car makers and motor workers.

“Fact is, American workers can outwork and out compete anyone – as long as the competition is fair,” Mr Biden said at the White House.

“But for too long it hasn't been fair."

The White House said the new measures would affect $18 billion worth of goods coming from China and would include steel, aluminium, semiconductors, electric vehicles, solar cells, cranes and other critical minerals.

Mr Biden is running for re-election in November against Donald Trump, the Republican former president who boasted about being “tough on China”.

Mr Biden made the announcement in the presence of representatives from various labour unions.

The move could undercut a crucial message by Mr Trump, who said that Mr Biden's support for EVs would lead to job losses at motor factories.

Mr Biden also kept in place billions of dollars in tariffs that were put in place by Mr Trump, despite arguing during his campaign that they increased prices on American consumers.

Despite a low unemployment rate and sustained economic growth, Mr Biden, who took office in 2021, is struggling to convince American voters that he has a solid handle on the economy.

Inflation, high consumer prices and high interest rates are weighing on him, and polls show him trailing Mr Trump on the economy.

“We have made clear, that this is not about escalation,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said during a news briefing.

“This is about the consequences of decades of economic policy and the need for the United States to defend ourselves.”

Ms Tai said China's policies have included maintaining weak labour rights and environmental protection, and flooding markets worldwide with artificially cheap products that wipe out competition.

“We have put a lot of heart and a lot of effort, intellectual effort, economic effort and consultation effort into this package,” she said.

“They are designed for to be strategic, not chaotic. They are designed to be effective and not emotional.”

Mr Trump has pledged that if re-elected, he will impose a blanket 10 per cent tariff rate on all imported goods.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 5:32 AM