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US sharply increases tariffs on Chinese imports of electric vehicles and semiconductors

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President Joe Biden is sharply raising tariffs on Chinese imports, ranging from electric vehicles to solar cells, as part of a pre-election effort to protect American jobs.

The White House said $18 billion worth of Chinese goods would be hit by the hikes, which were “carefully targeted to strategic sectors” and designed to buy time for U.S. companies to catch up with Chinese technology rivals. green.

In one of the most significant measures, the United States will quadruple tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles to 100% this year.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden before leaders of several U.S. labor unions, Biden said China had engaged in “cheating” through unfair trade practices, including for electric vehicles, as well as by engaging in cyber espionage.

“Whether it’s gasoline, electric or hybrid cars, we’re never going to allow China to unfairly control the market for these cars, period,” the president said.

Brad Setser, a trade expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the tariffs were “an indication that Biden is not willing to let (Chinese President) Xi Jinping hijack his made-in-America green transition plans.” He said the “most consequential tariff” was the higher rate for electric vehicles.

According to think tank CSIS, only 2% of U.S. electric vehicle imports come from China. But the higher tariffs are intended to make it even more difficult for the Asian country to actually gain a foothold.

Biden is also tripling the rate of steel and aluminum imports. The tariff on Chinese chips will be doubled from 2025, and that on solar cells will be doubled this year to reach 50%.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, accused Biden of moving too slowly and not going far enough.

“Where have they been for three and a half years? They should have done this a long time ago,” Trump said. “But they also need to do it on other vehicles and many other products, because China is eating us right now.”

Biden then hit back, saying he was taking a “smart approach” to how Trump had handled China, saying his predecessor had done little to increase U.S. exports and boost manufacturing. national. “He did neither, he failed.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing “opposes unilateral tariff increases that violate World Trade Organization rules and will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.”

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Washington will also more than triple tariffs on Chinese lithium-ion EV batteries, bringing them to 25% this year. Similar steps will be taken for lithium-ion batteries for non-electric vehicles starting in 2026 — a move that officials say is intended to give U.S. companies more time to develop the technology.

Senior US officials have denied that the change is linked to the presidential election. “This has nothing to do with politics,” one official said.

Biden has taken steps in recent months aimed at boosting votes among union workers ahead of the November election.

U.S. officials said many of the targeted sectors were the same clean energy areas that Biden had prioritized for development through legislation such as the CHIP Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

An official said the United States was not trying to “undermine” China’s development or harm efforts by Washington and Beijing to stabilize relations since Biden met with Xi for a summit in November.

Greta Peisch, who until recently served as general counsel at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said the increase in vehicle tariffs was important for U.S. industry.

“It’s really important that our companies know that their investments will not be harmed by an influx of imports from China in one or two years or however many years,” said Peisch, who now works at Wiley Law Firm.

The United Steelworkers union welcomed the tariffs. “Faulty Chinese trade policies have had a significant negative impact on our members,” said David McCall, the union’s international president.

But business groups expressed concern, pointing out that Biden had neither lowered nor eliminated tariffs introduced under the previous Trump administration.

Craig Allen, chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council, said: “We are disappointed with the outcome because maintaining previous tariffs – without reduction – and imposing additional tariffs ultimately makes it more difficult for American companies to be competitive in the United States and China. abroad.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stressed that at least 50% of electric vehicle exports from China come from Western brands with factories in the country.

“European and some American manufacturers are successful in the Chinese market and also sell a large number of European-produced vehicles to China,” he said.

However, the European Commission is also investigating imports of electric vehicles from China and is expected to increase customs duties in the coming months.

Additional reporting by Joe Miller in New York, Kana Inagaki in Tokyo, Wenjie Ding in Beijing, Gloria Li in Hong Kong and Arjun Neil Alim in Frankfurt

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News Source : www.ft.com

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