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Biden administration targets China with new tariffs on steel and aluminum

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The Biden administration on Wednesday announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from all nations (with certain exceptions for Canada and Mexico) in a bid to keep cheaply produced Chinese metals out of U.S. markets and protect domestic production. The new tariffs will focus on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico, which has become a conduit for many products of Chinese origin as the U.S. has reworked some direct supply chains away from China in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The White House said in a statement that the secretary of commerce has reported that “steel articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States.” Biden said in a statement: “In my judgment, these measures will provide an effective, long-term alternative means to address any contribution by Mexican aluminum articles imports to the threatened impairment of the national security by restraining aluminum articles imports to the United States from Mexico, limiting transshipment, and discouraging excess aluminum capacity and production.” 

Lael Brainard, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said that the White House cited national security interests as the basis for these tariffs: “Chinese steel and aluminum entering the U.S. market through Mexico evades tariffs, undermines our investments, and harms American workers in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.”

Biden said he had decided to impose 25% tariff on steel arriving from Mexico that was not poured in Mexico, Canada or the United States. A 10% tariff will be imposed on aluminum from Mexico if it includes smelting or casting done in China, Russia, Belarus or Iran.  The President added that the United States and Mexico have agreed on a range of measures to allow imports of steel and aluminum that are products of Mexico “to remain stable at historical levels without meaningful increases.” For Russian aluminum, Biden said he determined in February 2023 that “it was necessary and appropriate to impose a 200% ad valorem tariff on aluminum articles where any amount of primary aluminum used in the manufacture of the aluminum articles” is melted or cast in Russia.

The new tariffs are being coordinated with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who released a joint statement Wednesday with President Biden: “To improve transparency of the origins of its imports, Mexico is requiring importers to provide more information about the country of origin of steel products. This action adds to Mexico’s recent tariff increases on steel from non-free trade agreement countries.”

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