Biden announces new tariffs on imports of Chinese goods, including electric vehicles

By Asma Khalid
President Biden puts on a United Auto Workers t-shirt in Belvidere, Ill. on Nov. 9, 2023. Biden on Tuesday is announcing new tariffs on imports of Chinese goods, including electric vehicles. Getty Images

President Biden will slap tariffs on $18 billion of imports of goods from China including electric vehicles, semiconductors, and medical products to protect the strategic sectors and punish China for unfair trade practices.

He will also keep in place the tariffs that former President Donald Trump had placed on more than $300 billion of imports from China.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that she raised concerns last month during a trip to Beijing about “artificially cheap Chinese imports,” concerns that she said many other countries share. She said the new tariffs are necessary to protect American workers and companies from what could become a flood of unfairly traded products.

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The move comes as Biden pushes forward to implement three pieces of legislation that contain hundreds of billions of subsidies to boost the domestic manufacturing and clean energy sectors — and ahead of a presidential election where trade and jobs will again be an issue.

“We know China’s unfair practices have harmed communities in Michigan and Pennsylvania and around the country that are now having the opportunity to come back due to President Biden’s investment agenda,” Lael Brainard, Biden’s top economic adviser, told reporters.

Here’s a list of the new tariffs

Most of the new tariffs cover items that the Biden administration has sought to have made in America through investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Some increases will take place this year. They include tariffs of:

  • 100% on electric vehicles, up from 25%
  • 50% on solar cells, up from 25%
  • 50% on syringes and needles, up from zero
  • 25% on lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, and battery parts, up from 7.5%
  • 25% on certain critical minerals, up from zero
  • 25% on steel and aluminum products, up from a range of zero to 7.5%
  • 25% on respirators and face masks, up from zero to 7.5%
  • 25% on cranes used to unload container ships, up from 0%

Other hikes will be phased in, including:

  • 50% on semiconductors, up from 25%, by 2025
  • 25% on other lithium-ion batteries, by 2026
  • 25% on natural graphite and permanent magnets, up from zero, by 2026
  • 25% on rubber medical and surgical gloves, up from 7.5%, by 2026

The White House says this is different from Trump’s approach

Trump had made tariffs on China one of his signature policy moves when he was in the White House. At first, some Democrats warned this could really hurt the economy — and that American consumers would pay the price.

Biden’s team began reviewing those tariffs when he took office, and now has decided to keep them in place.

“One of the challenges is once tariffs have been imposed, it is quite difficult politically to reduce them — because the affected industry tends to get used to them, like them, operate with them as baked into their plans,” said Michael Froman, who was U.S. Trade Representative during the Obama administration.

The White House has tried to distinguish its strategy from Trump’s approach. It points to comments made by Trump in rallies and interviews that he would broaden tariffs on all imported goods, including targeting Chinese cars, if he wins the election — something that they said would hike consumer prices.

The White House has downplayed the risk that the new tariffs could spark retaliation from China, saying that the issues have been discussed during meetings of top U.S. and Chinese officials, and were unlikely to come as a surprise.