The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday it will seek to triple the tariff rate on steel and aluminum imports from China, in an attempt to deal with what it sees as its "unfair practices" and protect American workers.

Senior administration officials said Biden will touch on the plan when he delivers a speech in the afternoon at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in the presidential election in November.

Currently, the average tariff rate on steel and aluminum products from China is 7.5 percent, according to the White House. The officials said Biden will ask the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to consider tripling the rate under Section 301.

U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works Clairton Plant in Clairton, Pennsylvania, is shown on Feb. 26, 2024. (AP/Kyodo)

The section of the country's 1974 trade law authorizes the use of tariffs against a foreign country's allegedly unfair practices. It was a favorite tool of Biden's predecessor Donald Trump to narrow trade deficits with China and other countries.

"In manufacturing sectors like steel, China's already producing more than China or the world can easily absorb. China's subsidies and other forms of support lead to exports flooding global markets at artificially low prices, undercutting American steel that is cleaner," Biden's top economic aide Lael Brainard told reporters.

She said Biden's "strategic, balanced and targeted" approach has been formulated "in close partnership with industry stakeholders and unions who have directly lived through the impacts of China's unfair trade practices for years."

Among other measures, the officials said Biden is directing his team to block China's evasion of tariffs on such products coming from Mexico by cooperating with the neighboring country.

China alone accounts for almost 50 percent of global steel output and its export prices are 40 percent lower than those of the United States, according to one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Therefore it's important that these new tariffs, if acted, provide a more level playing field against China's unfair trade practices," the official said.

The announcement about seeking to raise the tariff rate, which was lowered to 7.5 percent from 15 percent in February 2020, came after the USTR office received a petition last month from the USW and four other powerful labor unions.

Biden has close ties with labor unions. For Biden, gaining strong support from them is crucial for his hopes of defeating Trump, who has been ahead of the incumbent in some opinion polls.

The USW is also staunchly opposed to Nippon Steel Corp.'s planned acquisition of United States Steel Corp, also headquartered in Pittsburgh.

In a statement released in mid-March, Biden said, "U.S. Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital for it to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated."

The proposed merger, announced in December, was agreed by the U.S. steelmaker, and its shareholders last week overwhelmingly approved the $14.1 billion deal.

Trump has also said he would "block" the Japanese company's plan to acquire U.S. Steel and it has increasingly become a political issue.

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