". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Biden Imposes Sweeping New Tariffs on China

May 15, 2024

After two years of delay, President Joe Biden imposed tariffs on select Chinese products, a move hailed by many including President Donald Trump, who wondered, “What took you so long?”

The greatest focus of the newly imposed tariffs will hit electric vehicles and their components, with significant protective tariffs for the U.S. steel industry. Biden’s tariffs will double the cost of Chinese electric vehicles. Biden announced Wednesday that tariffs on Chinese-manufactured:

  • Electric vehicles will increase from 25% to 100%.
  • Lithium-ion EV batteries and battery parts will increase from 7.5% to 25%. Lithium-ion non-EV batteries will follow suit in 2026.
  • Solar panels will double from 25% to 50%.
  • Certain steel and aluminum imports will rise from current tariffs of between 0% and 7.5% to 25%.
  • Ship-to-shore cranes will increase from 0% to 25%.
  • Syringes and needles will increase from 0% to 50%.
  • Certain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will increase from its existing rate of between 0% and 7.5% to 25%.

Also, tariffs on rubber medical and surgical gloves will increase from 7.5% to 25% in 2026.

“We applaud President Biden and [U.S. Trade Representative Katherine] Tai for taking this important action to increase Section 301 China tariffs in these critical industries,” said Zach Mottl, chairman of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) in a statement emailed to The Washington Stand. “There is overwhelming evidence, including from the [Biden administration], that proves what CPA has been saying for more than a decade: tariffs are a critical reshoring tool to stimulate domestic production, avoid future inflation, and to reduce dependence on foreign supply chains.”

Opponents argued that higher prices in the short-term will raise costs on Americans during a time of rampant inflation. “It’s definitely bad for the average consumer,” Yaël Ossowski of the Consumer Choice Center, which opposes tariffs, told reporter Chris Woodward of the American Family Radio Network. “It’s very reminiscent of the same trade war we had from President Trump back when he was in power.”

The protectionist measures will cheer the 370,000 members of the United Auto Workers, which endorsed Biden in January. They will also bolster the 1.1 million autoworkers in the swing state of Michigan, where polls show Biden holding a razor-thin lead over President Trump. But they do not go far enough for Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), now facing the toughest reelection campaign of his career, who has called for banning all Chinese electric vehicles from the U.S. market.

Mottl told TWS Biden’s new tariff increase sends “a strong signal that we are in a new bipartisan era of utilizing tariffs and industrial policy to promote fair and balanced trade, and to protect American workers and manufacturers from China’s illegal, predatory trade activity.”

In a nationally-televised speech Wednesday afternoon, Biden tried to use the tariffs to distinguish himself from President Donald Trump, who also imposed stiff tariffs on China. “I’ve made sure the most advanced American technologies we develop or invented can’t be used by the Chinese government to undermine our national security,” said Biden. “Frankly, for all this tough talk on China, it never occurred to my predecessor to do any of that.”

Biden Flip-Flops on Chinese Tariffs

But in fact, while the Biden White House complains of “intellectual property theft,” its tariff policy largely mirrors that of President Trump. “We’re going to put a 100% tariff on every single car that comes across the line,” said the 45th president at a rally in Dayton in March — at which he famously predicted a second Biden term would lead to a “bloodbath” for the U.S. automotive industry.

Critics note Joe Biden has flip-flopped on tariffs. As a candidate, his campaign vowed to end Trump’s tariffs against China and sharply criticized Trump’s China trade policy. “Manufacturing has gone into a recession,” Biden asserted at the time, adding that the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are “not bad folks, folks.”

As president, Biden invoked national emergency powers to lower tariffs on Southeast Asian solar panels last June — from nations that used materials from Xinjiang — calling lowering import fees on materials made in China “critical to national security and national defense.”

The move concerned human rights activists and religious freedom advocates. “Approximately 40% of the world’s polysilicon production occurs in the Xinjiang region, where one million Uyghurs are being forcibly detained without legitimate cause and are often made to work for little or no wages,” noted Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. “Biden’s emergency order calls into question the administration’s commitment to eradicating forced labor from American supply chains.”

Biden’s Tariffs Were Two Years in the Making

The new import fees come less than five months before the election — and more than two years after the Biden administration initiated a review of the tariffs in May 2022. The interminable delay wrangled congressional Republicans.

“Only the Biden administration would need over two years to figure out that the Trump tariffs combatting China’s unfair trade practices were, in fact, a good thing,” said Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in a statement emailed to The Washington Stand. “It took the Trump administration a mere eight months to conclude its investigation that prompted the tariffs in the first place.”

Smith expressed similar sentiments when Tai testified before Congress on April 16. “We are now nearly six years into a four-year review of President Trump’s tariffs. Maybe it’s time for the Biden administration to just admit that he did something right,” said Smith.

“[U]nfortunately, the Biden administration has shown a remarkable willingness to give China the benefit of the doubt when it is obvious to the American people that we need to do more, not less, to combat that country’s malign influence on the world stage,” added Smith, who accused the Biden administration of engaging in “endless dialogues and unenforceable trade ‘frameworks’ that fail to open new markets to American products and circumvent congressional constitutional authority over trade.”

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.