Biden Overrules Trump on UAE Tariff, Keeping Aluminum Duties

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President Joe Biden said he would keep U.S. tariffs in place on aluminum imports from the United Arab Emirates, reversing a last-minute move by his predecessor to grant the Gulf nation relief from the duties.

The 10% tariff will remain in place for national-security reasons, the White House announced Monday evening. “In my view, the available evidence indicates that imports from the UAE may still displace domestic production, and thereby threaten to impair our national security,” Biden said.

Former President Donald Trump announced he was suspending tariffs on the UAE’s aluminum imports in a proclamation released on Inauguration Day as he traveled aboard Air Force One from Washington to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The reprieve came after the UAE agreed last year to a Trump-brokered deal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Biden’s reimposition of the tariffs came less than a week after the U.S. dealt the UAE at least a temporary setback by placing a hold on the sale of as many as 50 advanced F-35 warplanes. An official described the pause as routine.

Aluminum ranks as the UAE’s biggest exported good by value to the U.S., and the nation sold $1.3 billion worth of the metal to American buyers in 2019, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

UAE-based Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC, the largest producer in the Middle East, is “monitoring the situation closely,” spokesman Simon Buerk said. EGA dropped plans for an initial share offering after Trump first imposed tariffs on UAE aluminum in 2018.

CRU Group, a commodity researcher, says shipments from the UAE were roughly 11.5% of total U.S. aluminum imports last year through November, and about 14% in 2019. In 2019, the UAE metal accounted for about 11% of all aluminum consumed in the U.S., according to the research group.

Century Aluminum Co. CEO Michael Bless, who was among the most vocal supporters of Trump’s implementation of aluminum tariffs, said in a statement Biden’s decision will ensure that UAE imports won’t threaten U.S. national security. The United Steelworkers president commended Biden’s decision, while also deriding Trump’s final-hour action as a “sell-out” of American jobs.

“If Trump’s actions were allowed to become effective, UAE’s state-supported aluminum producers would have had the right to flood the U.S. market, resulting in new trade attacks on our industry,” United Steelworkers President Tom Conway said in a statement. “In short, as he was walking away from the White House, Trump demonstrated that his concern for American workers was a façade and that he was willing to sacrifice their jobs and security.”

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