President Joe Biden, contending that China is dumping steel into global markets, has asked U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to consider looking into hiking U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from China by as much as threefold.

Biden announced his request during an April 17 speech at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh, where he noted that Tai already is investigating Chinese government trade practices dealing with steel and aluminum.

China produces more steel than it needs domestically and "ends up dumping the extra steel into the global markets at unfairly low prices," said Biden.

"They're not competing," he added. "They're cheating ... and we've seen the damage here in America."

If Tai's probe finds China is engaging in anti-competitive trade practices, Biden said he wants her to consider tripling the current tariff rates for both materials. For steel, the current tariff under section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act is 7.5%.

The tariff announcement, and other Biden comments, won praise from U.S. steel groups. "It's good to see the Biden-Harris administration getting tougher on China," said Philip K. Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association. 

Kevin Dempsey, American Iron and Steel Institute president, said in a statement, "As the largest contributor to the global steel overcapacity problem, China continues to engage in widespread unfair trade practices that harm American steel producers."

The White House said in a fact sheet that Biden also is directing his top advisers to work jointly with officials in Mexico to prevent China and other nations from evading U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Mexico. This practice is "a growing challenge," said the White House.

In addition, Tai's office has launched an investigation of alleged Chinese unfair trade practices in the shipbuilding, maritime and logistics sectors, the White House noted. That probe is a response to a request from the steelworkers and four other labor unions.

Between 2000 and 2010, more than 14,000 steelworkers and ironworkers in Pennsylvania and Ohio lost their jobs, said Biden.

He also strongly reiterated his opposition to Japan-based Nippon Steel's acquisition of U.S. Steel, which U.S. Steel's shareholders approved on April 13.

U.S. Steel "should remain a totally American company–American owned, American operated, by American union steelworkers," Biden said.

Nippon Steel on April 18 issued a response to Biden's remarks. The company said, "The partnership between U.S. Steel and Nippon Steel is the right combination to ensure that U.S. Steel remains an iconic American company for generations to come."

Biden's speech, its location and friendly audience, had campaign-like overtones, as Biden, who is running for re-election, made crystal clear, if not explicit, references to former President Donald Trump, the Republican Party's presumed nominee for the presidency. 

For example, Biden emphasized differences between his trade policy and those of "my predecessor and the MAGA Republicans” who, he said, “want across-the-board tariffs on all imports from all countries." 

Biden added, “That could badly hurt American consumers.” 

David McCall, United Steelworkers International president, praised the steps Biden is taking. "We're grateful that President Biden is continuing to take bold action to ensure a level playing field for American workers," McCall said in a statement.