Free Trade

Instead of Lifting Trump's Tariffs, Biden Is Imposing More of Them

Reimplementing 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imported from the United Arab Emirates for vacuous national security reasons only entrenches executive authority over trade.


President Joe Biden's first major trade policy move will be disappointing for anyone who hoped his inauguration would put an end to the presidential practice of unilaterally imposing expensive, unnecessary tariffs for vacuous national security reasons.

Biden's decision last week to reimpose 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) contains all the major hallmarks of former President Donald Trump's misguided trade policies. Biden even sounded downright Trumpian as he announced the renewed tariffs—which Trump had lifted during his final days in office. "The available evidence indicates that imports from the UAE may still displace domestic production, and thereby threaten to impair our national security," says Biden's executive order announcing the policy.

The idea that aluminum imports are a threat to national security was a bunch of nonsense when Trump did it, and it's still bunk when Biden says it. It was, and is, nothing more than a cheap excuse for a trade barrier that ultimately inflates costs for businesses that buy and consume aluminum. Since 97 percent of American jobs in the aluminum industry are downstream of production, these tariffs create far more losers than winners.

Asked about the decision last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Trump's "decision to lift the existing tariff on the UAE…at the last hour was made clearly, in our view, on the basis of foreign policy issues unrelated to trade." She also said Biden's decision is part of the president's efforts to fulfill his "commitment to carefully evaluating all steps taken by the previous administration on trade."

It is notable that Psaki didn't even attempt to reach for anything resembling a "national security" justification for the tariffs. Because there is none.

Trump's decision to remove those barriers was motivated by non-trade issues. Specifically, he lifted the tariffs immediately after the UAE agreed to purchase dozens of military jets and drones from American military contractors. Most of Trump's trade maneuvers were about broader political issues that Trump believed could be resolved by using tariffs to gain leverage—something he openly declared on several occasions.

But that hardly justifies reimposing these taxes that American businesses will have to pay. If Trump did the right thing for the wrong reasons, Biden is doing the wrong thing for no reason at all.

Taken along with Biden's misguided "Buy American" policies, the decision to reimpose these aluminum tariffs on the UAE, the third-largest supplier of aluminum into the United States, suggests that Biden is interested in building on Trump's inflated executive powers over trade.

Trump didn't invent the "national security" rationale for slapping tariffs on the peaceful exchange of goods across national borders, but he did use the power granted to presidents by Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 more aggressively than any previous chief executive. Trump was clearly abusing the law's intended purpose, but Congress declined to limit the scope of the law—even though there are several ways that could be done.

It isn't surprising to see Biden using the same law to enact tariffs unilaterally. That's how the bipartisan imperial presidency always operates. But it's still disheartening.

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  1. Boehm (you dumbass)….POTUS Trump lifted the tariffs to help launch the Abraham Accords. And what is wrong with buying American?

    You like the chinese so much…relocate to Bejing and ply your trade there. Asshole.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with “Buying American”.

      Just as there’s nothing wrong with “Buying Canadian”, “Buying Mexican”, “Buying Chinese”, or in this case, “Buying UAE”

      1. Except that’s not the case. If I buy my neighbor’s used lawnmower off of him, from a technical perspective, I’ve bought American but from a libertarian perspective, I’ve participated in the purest of free of trade available since the dawn of civilization.

        Unless I live on the border of Canada or Mexico or frequently cross back-and-forth no such duality exists for ‘buying Canadian’ or ‘buying Mexican’ and is explicitly impossible for ‘buying Chinese’. Not that the US is loads better, but nothing leaves the dock in China without approval meaning that while ‘buy American’ can and does mean ‘no government involvement’, ‘buying Chinese’ cannot.

        But, of course, you’re either too stupid, to blindly complicit, or both to care about such distinctions (distinctions that really are the core of libertarianism).

        1. Wow. I wasn’t expecting the hate, just a reasonable argument. I guess those days are gone.

          The “libertarian” principles is that consenting adults can no about anything, as long as no one gets hurt. What goes for trade, also.
          Buying stuff through an importer is effectively the same as buy a product made that country. My personal balance of trade with the world is really out of whack (the world doesn’t buy jack shit from me), but I don’t care. If I did care, I would make an effort to change my buying habits. However, forcing others to do so through force is very un-liberatarian.

          Who are you to say where my country my stuff is made in?

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    2. Hey, we have far fewer mean tweets and the press is thrilled to take four years off.

      You have to know Reason’s ACTUAL goals.

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  2. What’s worse the sound of the deflated faux libertarian or a wet fart.


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  3. Reason hasn’t figured it out yet, Biden thinks he was elected Dictator. Yet Reason won’t admit in a few weeks Biden is already worse than Trump. Reason keeps making excuses for Biden, Reason, just another Biden sycophant media outlet.

    1. It’s much worse than that. It’s not about Biden, the drooling half dead zombie. It’s about their secular liberal religion and their deep seeded hatred of this country.

  4. Reason Staff:

    But I thought that… but… I didn’t understand the dynamic… I never considered… but… how in the… why aren’t the Democrats… this is completely unexpected. They talked about Unity! They talked about ending The Era of Trump. They talked about it! THEY SAID NO MALARKEY!

    1. Trump>>>>>>Biden, this was known to anyone with half a brain. Which of course excludes KMW, Welch. and the BTeam

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  5. Oh man. Trumpistas must be so conflicted right now. Anything Biden does is wrong because he’s a Democrat, and he’s doubling down on Trump’s trade war. So they must oppose this in principle, but protective tariffs are good when Trump did it. What do they do?

    1. They laugh because secular liberalism is about to implode on itself.

      No refunds.

    2. Here’s what Chi Omega sorority president had to say on the subject.

      Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a briefing on Tuesday that Mr. Trump’s decision to lift the tariffs on the U.A.E. “at the last hour was made clearly, in our view, on the basis of foreign policy issues unrelated to trade.” She said the Biden administration was still reviewing other tariffs to determine what steps need to be taken.

      The problem with Trump, as the NYT carefully tells us, is that Trump was LIFTING the tariffs on the UAE, and Biden swooped in to keep them in place.

      For me, the hilarity of the media beclowning itself over Biden is the best part of this.

      1. chi-o, chi-o, it’s off to bed we go …

      2. What is amazing is sarcasmic rushing in to blame trump for tariffs he lifted.

      3. Didn’t see that. Interesting.

    3. It is amazing watching you cycle back into alcoholism.

    4. Trump; Cancel foreign-shipping subsidies, Cut Domestic Taxes and regulation, enact Tariffs.

      Biden; Increase foreign-shipping subsidies, Raise domestic Taxes and regulation, enact Tariffs.

      Sure; Biden did one thing (out of complete contempt of the Trump’s Administration) that was Constitutional in the mist of everything else that is UN-Constitutional.

      It’s just like Tony; The only time he’s right is when he ‘thinks’ he’s trashing on Republicans but isn’t really.

    5. This really isn’t that hard. Trump lowered tariffs against the UAE in order to help bring about the Abraham Accords and peace in the Middle East. Biden is reversing that, which will likely cause a regression in the Middle East.

      It’s the carrot vs. the stick. Trump understood diplomacy in ways that career diplomats do not, because he thinks like a businessman and not like a diplomat. Use the carrot with people you hope to turn into potential allies, such as the UAE. Use the stick with people who will never be your allies, such as China.

      Even with Mexico and Canada, you’d prefer to use the carrot, but when they don’t respond, you use the stick. That gets you a renegotiated NAFTA.

      Biden is using the stick when he should be using the carrot and vice versa.

  6. Perhaps you could’ve done real journalism about the unconstitutional election changes or the poll workers bought by the democrats.

    No refunds. Enjoy.

  7. So tell me, Mr. professional journalist, exactly how much does Hunter have in the aluminum business? Oh, I see, not worth a few minutes on the old search engine or a few calls to “highly placed sources”.
    Yeah, sure.


  9. This article is off for a number of reasons.

    1) Biden is reversing Trump’s policy.

    “Biden’s decision last week to reimpose 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) contains all the major hallmarks of former President Donald Trump’s misguided trade policies.”

    If Biden reimposing the tariffs on the UAE that Trump rescinded had all the hallmarks of Trump’s policy on those tariffs, Biden wouldn’t have reversed Trump’s order to get rid of them! Why would you describe this as evidence of Biden being like Trump–when Trump is the one who got rid of the aluminum tariffs on the UAE and Biden is reimposing them?

    2) The tariffs on the UAE isn’t about trade policy. It’s about security.

    Trump took those tariffs on the UAE’s aluminum down as a reward for the UAE normalizing relations with Israel, and the UAE normalizing relations with Israel was seen as a test balloon for Saudi Arabia doing the same thing.

    Anyway, using trade policy to help cement regional allies into a Middle East defense alliance–with Israel–is why Trump got rid of those tariffs on billion in aluminum imports from the UAE, and from a defense policy standpoint, Biden’s actions should be nothing short of alarming–for pulling the plug on Trump’s policies that were leading to peace in the Middle East between Iran’s enemies (the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and–yes!–Israel) all working together in their own defense without the United States taking the lead on everything.

    Surely I’m not the only one who knows that the UAE recently normalized relations with Israel and why.

    If Biden is purposely pulling the rug out from under something that is helped to push peace in the Middle East–just as a giveaway to his cronies in the United Steel Workers and to set his neocon policies in place so that the Untied States can continue to be the guarantor of peace in the region–then he should be condemned for it by all libertarians.

    And if Biden is so stupid that he doesn’t realize that what he’s doing is undermining peace in the region and placing the United States in the role of guaranteeing Middle Eastern security–then he should be condemned for doing it for ignorant and stupid reasons, too.

    Oh, and journalists who are so obsessed with Trump that can’t even see the obvious implications of policy when they’re staring them in the face should go back to school. This isn’t about Trump. The world isn’t about Trump. Life isn’t about Trump. Libertarianism isn’t about Trump. Reality means what it means regardless of your perspective in relation to Trump. Wake the fuck up already! This is about Biden, and his policies, here, are bad for American security, bad for anit-war libertarians, and stupid.

    1. You seem to be assuming that Harris (excuse me, “Biden”) doesn’t _want_ to undermine peace in the Middle East. I thought it was pretty clear that one of the Establishment’s big problems with Trump was that he wasn’t enough of a warmonger for them.

      1. Oh, I’m pointing that out.

        The general consensus in the press is that Trump was a warmonger, and Biden is a peacnik.

        That’s bullshit of course.

        I’ve been talking about this in other threads over the weekend, but, yeah, Biden pulling the plug on this trade reward for normalizing relations with Israel–as well as Biden killing arm sales to the UAE–is all an indication that he doesn’t want Israel and its enemies to form an alliance in the Middle East–so that the U.S. won’t be the guarantor of Middle Eastern security anymore.

        Biden’s administration is full of neocons, and they want the U.S. to be the guarantor of security in the Middle East. That’s why they’re killing this deal. Anything that threatens the U.S.’s role as the guarantor of security in the Middle East is a bad thing in their eyes–even peace and security cooperation among Israel and its former enemies. That had to be stopped.

  10. As long as the unions are on board, it’s all good in Bidentown.

    1. But you can’t take any coal from the ground
      And the union has been bought and paid…

      And we’re living here in Bidentown

      1. Captain Joe will get you high tonite
        Fuck with the UAE again
        Captain Joe will get you by tonite
        Tax aluminum, and Joe be smilin’.

        1. You may be right
          Joe may be senile
          But he just might be the president you voted for…

  11. lol shocker #176. you guys are so dumb.

  12. Instead of Lifting Trump’s Tariffs, Biden Is Imposing More of Them

    Fortunately there’s no tariff on shocked faces. I need to get a new one.

    1. Boehm is too dumb to understand the majority of trumps tariffs were retaliatory in response to open theft and steeling of IP. Biden is doing tariffs to help Iran and unions.

  13. what a surprise…… they both suck.

  14. If only Biden had said he intended to do things like this before the election. Oh he did?

  15. Lol. Too bad you guys only care about mean tweets.

    1. Dammit, beat me to it!

  16. Biden is trying to appeal to the Trump votes. They love tariffs. Biden should be praised for doing something the Rs like.

    1. Youre a fucking idiot.

      Buy American is a decades old concept.

      1. I was not being serious. I like free trade.

        1. He doesn’t understand “not serious.” Still not sure if he’s a dishonest loser or a highly functioning retard.

          1. I’m thinking loser because a retard would talk like that in public, get his teeth knocked out, and never do it to anyone again.

            1. “Hahaha, Trumpistas are so gullible, they don’t realize we were only pretending to be retarded” – t. sarcasmic

  17. I spent Trump’s entire presidency trying to remind people that Democrats spent their entire pre-Trump history loving tariffs.

    They never actually changed their view on tariffs; rather, their four years of pretending to hate them just signaled how much they were willing to lie and betray their “principles” to hate on Trump.

    And of course, too many in the Reason crowd were happy to insist that people like me were irrational Trump fans, rather than being PLAINLY CORRECT ON THIS ISSUE.

    1. Saying that Democrats love tariffs is not accurate. Most Democrats and Republicans know very little about tariffs and are unlikely to have an opinion on them one way or another. If you polled 1000 Democrats and asked them to list their top 10 issues, I doubt that “tariffs” would show up more then a handful of times.

      1. The dismal science isn’t very popular.

      2. That’s a silly comment. You know full well that when someone says “Democrats love tariffs”, they mean that the party’s politicians prefer to enact/expand them.

  18. And this should be a surprise, how? This isn’t the heyday of the Democratic Leadership Council. This is the time of Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer. On top of that, this is an issue where Democrats can hope to win back union members that jumped ship. Any libertarian who expect Biden to be an improvement when it comes to free trade is willfully blind.

  19. We can always count on Boehm to provide evidence that no one is more ignorant of … well, just about everything than a Leftist. In this case Boehm demonstrates his ignorance of both economics AND national defense.

    But, Boehm, please do exp0-lain why it’s a great idea to have the aluminum used, for example, in the airframes of our military’s aircraft sourced from overseas.

  20. But at least Biden’s not writing mean tweets, amirite?

    This column is a confession of abject idiocy, not serious analysis. There is nothing that Boehm can point to that would give him rational cause to believe that Biden might be less bad than Trump on trade — the Orange Man was just Bad, so hope triumphs over the observable reality of Democratic policy advocacy; which to the extent it ever manifested any resistance to Trump’s trade policy was plainly oppositional defiant disorder and not a road-to-Damascus conversion.

    Honestly, while sacking Shikha raised the average IQ of Reason’s contributors by about 20 points, it would still be useful to impose an “isn’t at serious risk of accidentally drowning while eating soup” hiring requirement.

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