Pennsylvania lawmakers praise Biden administration’s tariffs on Chinese steel, aluminum shipped through Mexico

Pennsylvania lawmakers praised the Biden administration’s announcement Wednesday of a novel joint U.S.-Mexico effort to prevent China and other countries from avoiding tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

“Shipping Chinese steel and aluminum into the U.S. market through Mexico avoids tariffs, undermines our investments and hurts American workers in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Lael Brainard, director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters.

Brainard said the tariffs would be imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which covers imports deemed a threat to U.S. national security. Steel and aluminum that are not melted or cast in Mexico would be subject to tariffs of 25% and 10%, respectively.

The U.S. imported 3.8 million tons of steel from Mexico last year, 13% of which was poured or melted elsewhere, according to Biden administration officials. Of the 105,000 tons of aluminum the U.S. imported from Mexico last year, 94% was smelted or cast in the U.S., Canada or Mexico, and the remaining 6% was cast in four countries: China, Russia, Belarus and Iran, administration officials said.

“Western Pennsylvania and our people produced the steel that built America, but bad trade policies have tried to strip our region of its assets and send strong, union jobs overseas,” U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-17th District) said in a statement Wednesday. “President Biden’s announcement today takes aim at communist China’s use of loopholes that have allowed foreign steel and aluminum to be imported into the country through Mexico, undermining our workers and industry here at home.”

During an April stop in Pittsburgh, President Joe Biden called for a nearly triple 7.5% tariff on Chinese steel and aluminum imports and said his administration would put novel pressure on Mexico to prevent China from shipping the metals to the U.S. through its ports. Also in April, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s office opened an investigation into China’s shipbuilding industry.

“For too long, the Chinese government has been pumping state money into Chinese steel companies,” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “They don’t compete, they cheat.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) were among seven Democratic senators who called on the Biden administration to “maintain or increase tariffs to address China’s continued efforts to defraud and undermine our national security.” Casey on Wednesday called Wednesday’s announcement “a victory for Pennsylvania workers and our nation’s steel industry.”

The tariffs came into force on Wednesday.

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