Biden announces new China tariffs on electric vehicles, solar, chips and more

The administration argues the action won't affect inflation or costs.

May 14, 2024, 12:53 PM

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced new tariffs on $18 billion worth of Chinese imports, including a sharp tax hike on electric vehicles, to help protect his administration's investments in key sectors in the United States.

The targets of the tariffs include EVs, solar cells, steel, aluminum, semiconductors, advanced batteries, critical minerals, solar and medical products.

"American workers can outwork and outcompete anyone, as long as the competition is fair," President Biden said in remarks delivered from the White House Rose Garden. "But for too long it hasn't been fair."

Hitting China's trade policies, Biden said "it's not competition, it’s cheating.”

"China heavily subsidized all these products, pushing Chinese companies to produce far more than the rest of the world can absorb and then dumping excess products onto the market at unfairly low prices, driving other manufacturers around the world out of business," he said.

The election-year actions come as Biden looks to project himself as tougher on China than his predecessor, and expected 2024 rival, former President Donald Trump. Trump imposed some $300 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods during his administration, many of which are expected to remain in place.

The Biden-Harris campaign, ahead of the White House announcement, sought to highlight the contrast between Biden and Trump.

"After four years of broken promises by Donald Trump, who ceded leadership in jobs of the future to China, Joe Biden's strong leadership at home and abroad is delivering for the American people," Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer said in a statement to ABC News when asked about how the tariffs announcement will play with voters in industrial states like Michigan.

Trump, as he entered the Manhattan courthouse where he is currently on trial, said earlier Tuesday morning that Biden "should have done it a long time ago."

"But they also have to do it on other vehicles, and they need to do it on a lot of other products because China is eating our lunch right now," Trump said of Biden’s announcement. "And they went away from what I was doing. They're eating our lunch."

Asked by reporters about Trump’s comments during the Rose Garden event, Biden shot back: “He’s been feeding them a long time.”

PHOTO: President Joe Biden announces increased tariffs to promote American investments and jobs in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 14, 2024 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden announces increased tariffs to promote American investments and jobs in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 14, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Biden touted the new tariffs as a "smart approach" as he criticized Trump.

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"Compare that to what the prior administration did," Biden said in his remarks. "My predecessor promised to increase American exports and boost manufacturing. But he did neither. He failed."

"He signed a trade deal with China," Biden continued. "They were supposed to buy $200 billion more in American goods. Instead, China's imports from America barely budged. And now Trump and his MAGA Republicans want across the board tariffs on all imports from all countries if reelected. Well, that would drive up costs for families on an average of $1,500 per year each year. He simply doesn't get it."

Tariffs on certain steel and aluminum products will increase from 7.5% to 25%, according to the White House. Semiconductor tariffs will double from 25% to 50% and certain medical equipment (including PPE, surgical gloves and respirators) will be subject to a 25% tariff.

The biggest increase will be on Chinese EVs, which will quadruple from a 25% tariff to 100%.

Biden said he was "determined that the future of electric vehicles be made in America by union workers."

Though some economists have warned the new tariffs could increase cost to American consumers and worsen inflation.

Administration officials downplayed the possible impact the actions will have on inflation or consumer costs, arguing they are a "very targeted set of tariffs on specific sectors" rather than broad, sweeping action.

"I think what Americans can expect is that the investment boom that is undergoing, that is fueling record levels of jobs in manufacturing and factory construction, will continue," a senior administration official said. "I think there is a comeback that we're seeing across communities that had long cycles of disinvestment. These tariffs will protect and safeguard those gains."

China's Ministry of Commerce pushed back on the new tariffs, saying it "firmly opposes" the move and argued they are not "in line" with previous talks between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

ABC News' Karson Yiu, Fritz Farrow, Molly Nagle and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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