The GOP isn’t buying President Joe Biden’s tough talk on China.

The Biden administration announced plans to put new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, advanced batteries, solar cells, steel, aluminum, and medical equipment — an election-year move that’s likely to increase friction between the world’s two largest economies.

Republican National Committee Chair Michael Whatley said it was a last-minute ploy to make voters think Biden is tough on China.

“Weak Joe Biden is admitting that the Trump-era trade policy worked and his failed EV mandate is being taken advantage of by China,” Whatley said. “President [Donald] Trump’s America First trade policy reduced the trade deficit, grew wages, created over 500,000 new manufacturing jobs, and made America strong. Biden has consistently put China first.”

Administration officials said they think the tariffs won’t escalate tensions with China, yet they expect that China will explore ways to respond to the new taxes on its products. It’s uncertain what the long-term impact on prices could be if the tariffs contribute to a wider trade dispute.

Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign said Biden’s move was meant to distract from his policies costing thousands of autoworkers their jobs.

“The fact that these tariffs do not apply to gas-powered cars and trucks but only to Chinese EVs shows that this has nothing to do with protecting American workers,” Leavitt said. “It’s all about crooked Joe’s agenda of killing gas-powered automobiles while forcing Americans into ultra-expensive electric vehicles they don’t want and can’t afford.”

The tariffs are to be phased in over the next three years, with those that take effect in 2024 covering EVs, solar cells, syringes, needles, steel, aluminum and more. There are currently very few EVs from China in the U.S., but officials worry that low-priced models made possible by Chinese government subsidies could soon start flooding the U.S. market.

Chinese firms can sell EVs for as little as $12,000. Their solar cell plants and steel and aluminum mills have enough capacity to meet much of the world’s demand, with Chinese officials arguing that their production keeps prices low and would aid a transition to the green economy.

Information from the AP was used in this report.

Sam Barron ✉

Sam Barron has almost two decades of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, crime and business.

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