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US cuts deal on steel tariffs with EU, but Sen. Toomey says more is needed

Cliff Owen
Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said Monday, Nov. 1, that the Biden Administration should eliminate steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union and other allies. In a new deal with the EU, the U.S. has agreed to allow some steel and aluminum produced in Europe to enter the U.S. free of tariffs.

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey offered mild praise Monday for a new deal between the U.S. and European Union that will ease steel and aluminum tariffs on the 27-nation bloc.

The agreement, which the Biden Administration announced Saturday, will preserve the trade levies of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum, while exempting a still-unspecified amount of steel and aluminum produced in Europe.

Toomey, a staunch free-trade advocate, called the move “a step in the right direction” that “will bring much-needed relief to many American workers.” But, he added in a statement, “I encourage the Biden administration to fully remove the Section 232 tariffs on the EU and our other allies.”

Toomey has criticized the levies ever since former President Trump authorized them in 2018 under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. Trump cited national security concerns, a rationale that outraged European allies.

A Federal Reserve study estimated the tariffs led to the loss of 75,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs. Companies that rely on imported steel and aluminum were especially hard hit, and EU tariffs on U.S. exports such as Harley-Davidsons and bourbon whiskey caused additional losses.

As part of Saturday’s truce, the EU agreed to suspend its retaliatory levies.

Still, supporters of the U.S. tariffs say the import taxes are key to ensuring that domestic steel and aluminum-makers can compete with their subsidized counterparts overseas.

Governments across the world have long-contributed to the oversupply of steel by awarding subsidies and tax breaks to domestic producers.

The U.S. and EU hope to negotiate a new global trade agreement to address the excess capacity and to reduce carbon emissions. They are especially focused on reining in China on both those scores.

But in his statement Monday, Toomey said the Biden Administration should not use trade negotiations “to enact concessions on climate change.” Toomey called the idea “inappropriate” because it would not advance national security as permitted under U.S. trade law.