Tags: biden | pittsburgh | china | tariffs | steel | 2024 | union

Biden Targets 'Cheating' China on Trip to Pittsburgh

Biden Targets 'Cheating' China on Trip to Pittsburgh
President Joe Biden speaks at the United Steelworkers Headquarters in Pittsburgh, April 17, 2024. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 03:47 PM EDT

US President Joe Biden called for a hike in steel tariffs on "cheating" China Wednesday as he courted blue-collar voters on an election campaign trip to the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

"I stand by you, the American steel worker," Biden said to cheers as he unveiled the latest in a series of protectionist measures in a speech to the United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh.

Democrat Biden was on the second day of a three-day swing through Pennsylvania as he competes with Republican rival Donald Trump for working- and middle-class votes ahead of November's election.

Biden, who narrowly won Pennsylvania from Trump in 2020 and has made more campaign visits there than in any other state, called for a tripling in tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports.

- 'Heavy China subsidies' -

"China's steel companies don't need to worry about making a profit because the Chinese government is subsidizing them so heavily," the 81-year-old Biden said.

"They're not competing, they're cheating. They're cheating and we've seen the damage here in America."

Biden won the coveted backing last month of the union, and has opposed a bid by Japan's Nippon Steel to take over the Pittsburgh-based firm US Steel in a further attempt to woo the union.

He repeated his vow on Wednesday to torpedo the Japanese takeover of the "iconic American company".

"American-owned, American-operated by American union steelworkers, the best in the world -- and that's going to happen, I promise," he said.

Beijing reacted furiously after Washington said it was also launching a probe into Chinese shipbuilding following a complaint by unions, including United Steelworkers.

Biden insisted, however, that he was not seeking a showdown with China.

"No trade war," Biden earlier said when asked by reporters about the Chinese tariffs during a stop at a coffee shop in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

On the first day of the trip on Monday, he stopped by his childhood home in Scranton while taking aim at Trump as an elitist billionaire, as the tycoon languished in a New York courtroom as part of his hush money trial.

Biden mocked him on Wednesday, saying Trump was "busy right now".

- 'Undercut' -

At stake are the crucial ballots of the blue-collar voters who helped propel Trump and his nationalist agenda to power in 2016, and whom Biden wrested back four years ago.

Despite huge differences with election rival Trump on everything from tax to abortion, Biden's trade policies have increasingly echoed elements of his rival's "America First."

But unlike Trump, Biden has invested huge amounts in infrastructure and green projects since taking office, hoping that it will bring manufacturing and production of key goods like steel back to the United States.

The Biden administration views China's practices as a barrier to that.

China accounts for about half of global steel production, while exporting the metal at a significantly lower cost than US steel prices, a senior US official told reporters.

The US Trade Representative said separately it was launching its probe into China's trade practices in the shipbuilding, maritime and logistics sectors.

Beijing said it firmly opposes the probe, with China's commerce industry calling it "full of false accusations, misinterpreting normal trade and investment activities as harming US national security and corporate interests, and blaming China for its own industrial problems."

The trade tensions come against a backdrop of wider stresses between the world's two biggest economies.

- Balancing act -

The United States has identified China as its key rival for the coming century, but Biden has also sought to manage tensions.

He met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in California last year and they spoke recently.

But China was again angered when Biden hosted the leaders of Japan and the Philippines last week in a concerted front against China's increasing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

© AFP 2024

US President Joe Biden called for a hike in steel tariffs on "cheating" China Wednesday as he courted blue-collar voters on an election campaign trip to the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
biden, pittsburgh, china, tariffs, steel, 2024, union, vote
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 03:47 PM
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