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Biden denies China trade war on trip to US steel heartland

Papua New Guinea PM dismisses Biden's 'loose' talk on cannibalism as a 'blurry moment'
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US President Joe Biden denied there was a trade war with China Wednesday, despite calling for a hike in steel tariffs as he courted blue-collar voters in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

Biden was unveiling the latest in a series of protectionist measures in a campaign speech to United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh, on the second day of a three-day swing through the state he narrowly won from Donald Trump in 2020.

The 81-year-old was set to call for a tripling in tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, saying that Beijing was undercutting US production by manipulating Chinese products.

Democrat Biden and Republican Trump are promising to revive American manufacturing as they compete for vital working- and middle-class voters in the US Rust Belt ahead of a tight November election.

Beijing reacted furiously after Washington said it was also launching a probe into Chinese shipbuilding following a complaint by unions including United Steelworkers.

Biden won the coveted backing last month of the union, and has opposed a bid by Japan’s Nippon Steel to take over the Pittsburgh-based US Steel in a further attempt to woo them.

“No trade war,” Biden said when asked by reporters if he was worried about the potential for a standoff with Beijing during a stop at a coffee shop in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Biden has visited Pennsylvania more than any other state as he bids for a second term that would also prevent a Trump comeback to the White House.

On the first day of the trip on Monday he visited his birthplace of Scranton, stopping by his childhood home while taking aim at Trump as an elitist billionaire, as the tycoon languished in his New York hush money trial.

His campaign released an ad on Tuesday featuring a unionized steelworker hailing his policies.


– ‘Undercut’ –


At stake are the crucial ballots of the blue-collar voters who helped propel Trump and his nationalist agenda to power in 2016, and whom Biden wrested back four years ago.

Despite huge differences with election rival Trump on everything from tax to abortion, Biden’s trade policies have increasingly echoed elements of his “America First” rival’s.

But unlike Trump, Biden has invested huge amounts in infrastructure and green projects since taking office, hoping that it will bring manufacturing and production of key goods like steel back to the United States.

The Biden administration views China’s practices as a barrier to that.

China accounts for about half of global steel production, while exporting the metal at a significantly lower cost than US steel prices, a senior US official told reporters.

“Chinese policies and subsidies for their domestic steel and aluminum industries mean high-quality US products are undercut by artificially low-priced Chinese alternatives produced with higher emissions,” the White House said in a statement.

The US Trade Representative said separately it was launching its probe into China’s trade practices in the shipbuilding, maritime and logistics sectors.

US unions had slammed “unreasonable and discriminatory” policies and practices used by Beijing to dominate these industries.

Beijing said it firmly opposes the probe, with China’s commerce industry calling it “full of false accusations, misinterpreting normal trade and investment activities as harming US national security and corporate interests, and blaming China for its own industrial problems.”

The trade tensions come against a backdrop of wider stresses between the world’s two biggest economies.

The United States has identified China as its key rival for the coming century, but Biden has also sought to manage tensions.

He met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in California last year and they spoke recently.

But China was again angered when Biden hosted the leaders of Japan and the Philippines last week in a concerted front against China’s increasing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.


About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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