Steel trade groups, union call on Biden to leave tariffs intact

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Seven major groups representing steel producers and workers are urging President Biden to keep tariffs on foreign steel that former President Trump enacted intact.

“The tariffs were necessitated by repeated surges in steel imports driven by global steel overcapacity that threatened our industry and the nearly two million jobs it supports,” the groups, which include the United Steelworkers, Steel Manufacturing Association and American Iron and Steel Institute, among others, wrote in a joint letter to Biden.

“The tariffs have been a success, allowing our industry to restart idled mills, rehire laid-off workers and invest in the future,” they added.

Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in 2018 as part of his aggressive trade agenda, setting off a trade war with many close U.S. allies, who imposed their own counter-tariffs on U.S. goods.

In order to impose the tariffs, Trump relied on a national security justification that critics said was an abuse of U.S. trade law.

The steel groups said they announced plans for $15.7 billion in investments since the tariffs took effect, and cited a significant uptick in domestic steel production.

But critics of the policy said that it did little to stop China from flooding the market with excess steel, and drove a wedge between the U.S. and its allies. The tariffs, they said, drove up the price of steel and created additional burdens for a slew of industries that use it in their manufacturing, such as automobile manufacturers and parts suppliers.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has been involved in furious negotiations with the United Kingdom and European Union — key trade partners — on unwinding the tariffs.

On Monday, the European Commission said it would suspend a scheduled increase on its counter-tariffs on some products such as whiskey, motorcycles, and agricultural products, a sign of potential progress in the talks.

The US and EU took a veiled shot at China’s steel dumping in a joint statement.

“The distortions that result from this excess capacity pose a serious threat to the market-oriented EU and U.S. steel and aluminum industries and the workers in those industries,” the statement said.

Tai has indicated a desire to scale back some of Trump’s tariffs on close allies, but also said that the United States would seek to negotiate solutions rather than immediately withdrawing the tariffs.

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