Politics

Chinese Exports Are Threatening Biden’s Industrial Agenda

President Biden’s trillion-dollar effort to invigorate American manufacturing and speed a transition to cleaner energy sources is colliding with a surge of cheap exports from China, threatening to wipe out the investment and jobs that are central to Mr. Biden’s economic agenda.

Mr. Biden is weighing new measures to protect nascent industries like electric-vehicle production and solar-panel manufacturing from Chinese competition. On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, the president called for higher tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum products and announced a new trade investigation into China’s heavily subsidized shipbuilding industry.

“I’m not looking for a fight with China,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m looking for competition — and fair competition.”

Unions, manufacturing groups and some economists say the administration may need to do much more to restrict Chinese imports if it hopes to ensure that Mr. Biden’s vast industrial initiatives are not swamped by lower-cost Chinese versions of the same emerging technologies.

“It is a very clear and present danger, because the industrial policy of the Biden administration is largely focused on not the traditional low-skill, low-wage manufacturing, but new, high-tech manufacturing,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist who specializes in trade policies.

“Those are precisely the areas where China has upped its own investments,” he said.

Both America and China are using large government subsidies to stoke economic growth and try to dominate what they believe will be the most important global markets of this century: the technologies meant to speed a global transition away from fossil fuels in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

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