- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2024

President Biden will announce Tuesday that he is quadrupling the tariff on electric vehicles from China to 100% and sharply increasing duties on $18 billion in clean energy products, including semiconductors, solar components and batteries.

The tariff on electric vehicles will rise from its current level of 25% starting this year, a White House official said.

Mr. Biden pledged last month to significantly raise tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports.

In the race to win critical battleground manufacturing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania against former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party nominee, the move burnishes Mr. Biden’s pledge to protect U.S. auto and steel industries and their workers from foreign competition. Mr. Biden intends to show voters that he has been tougher on China and more protective of American goods than Mr. Trump.

The president is set to discuss his plan in remarks from the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

Other tariff increases on Chinese products include:

• Semiconductors, from 25% to 50% by 2025.

• Lithium-ion EV batteries, from 7.5% to 25% this year.

• Lithium-ion non-EV batteries, from 7.5% to 25% by 2026.

• Solar cells, from 25% to 50% this year.

• Ship-to-shore cranes, which currently don’t have a tariff, to 25% this year.

The decision was made after a yearslong required review of Mr. Trump’s tariffs on some $300 billion of Chinese imports. Most of the Trump-era tariffs will remain in place.

Mr. Trump mocked the plan during his rally in New Jersey over the weekend. He said, if elected, he would consider imposing tariffs of 60% or more on all Chinese imports.

“He says he’s going to put a 100% tariff on all Chinese electric vehicles. Isn’t that nice?” Mr. Trump said. “Biden should have done this four years ago.”

Mr. Trump warned that Chinese companies will try to skirt the tariffs by building cars in Mexico and shipping them to the U.S. under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed during his administration. He said he would impose a 200% tariff on Chinese vehicles made in Mexico.

White House officials say the action combats China’s unfair trade practices by targeting strategic sectors that are growing in the U.S. They say Beijing’s intellectual property threat has contributed to its control of 90% of the global production for the technology used to power infrastructure, energy and health care.

The tariffs point to growing concerns that the overproduction of those goods by China could harm Mr. Biden’s efforts to increase domestic manufacturing and green energy investments.

Officials say that creates “unacceptable risks to America’s supply chains and economic security.”

Beijing urged Washington last week to abide by the rules of the World Trade Organization, remove all tariffs on China and not impose new tariffs. In response to Mr. Biden’s expected move, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China would take all necessary measures to uphold its rights and interests.

Mr. Biden’s plan to raise tariffs is largely symbolic because China doesn’t have a strong foothold in U.S. markets targeted by the administration.

By implementing a steep increase in electric vehicle tariffs, the Biden administration aims to prevent a flood of cars made in China from hitting the U.S. market. China has not had a significant presence in the U.S. because existing tariffs virtually locked Chinese EVs out of the market years ago. Solar companies mostly export to the U.S. from other countries to avoid similar costs.

China is beginning to lean heavily into clean energy production to stimulate economic growth.

During her visit to China last month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned about growing investments in “new” industries targeted by Beijing, including electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar.

China is now simply too large for the rest of the world to absorb this enormous capacity,” she said at a press conference. “Actions taken by the PRC today can shift world prices. And when the global market is flooded by artificially cheap Chinese products, the viability of American and other foreign firms is put into question.”

The Alliance for American Manufacturing says government-subsidized Chinese EVs “could end up being an extinction-level event for the U.S. auto sector.”

Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told industry analysts that Chinese EVs are so good that, without trade barriers, “they will pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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