The Biden administration has begun much-anticipated negotiations to ease tariffs on steel and aluminum produced in the United Kingdom as it continues to unwind Trump-era trade policies that have rankled longtime U.S. trading partners.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.K. trade chief Anne-Marie Trevelyan agreed to launch the talks on Wednesday following a virtual meeting to discuss China’s excess steel production and the unfair competition it creates for their domestic industries.
“Both parties are committed to working towards an expeditious outcome that ensures the viability of steel and aluminum industries in both markets against the continuing shared challenge of global excess capacity and strengthens their democratic alliance,” the governments said in a joint statement.
The U.K.’s turn: The Biden administration brokered a deal with the European Union last year that permits a set amount of duty-free steel and aluminum before imposing tariffs on imports above that threshold. The two sides also agreed to hash out a separate agreement by 2024 to curb carbon-intensive steel production and rein in China’s excess production.
The U.S. subsequently initiated talks with Japan to ease tariffs, but hesitated to begin talks with the U.K. despite fervent interest from London.
Trevelyan sought to apply pressure during a visit to Washington in December but found that Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai were unwilling to commit to a timeline. Trevelyan subsequently invited Raimondo to London for talks this month.
Trump holdover: Former President Donald Trump slapped Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from around the world in 2018, citing concerns that unfair foreign competition was undermining U.S. national security.
Trump struck deals with Mexico and Canada to replace the tariffs with alternate measures, but maintained the tariffs on other longtime trading partners. President Joe Biden declined to scrap the tariffs after taking office last January, in part because they are popular with steelworkers. He has instead agreed to impose less-strict protections.