Appeals from Trump and Biden to Rust Belt turn on tariffs

By Gavin Bade | 05/14/2024 12:30 PM EDT

Both candidates are pledging higher tariffs to protect American industry from Chinese competition. But their approaches would have wildly different impacts — both at home and abroad.

Donald Trump gives a thumbs up on stage as supporters rally behind him.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump threatened to slap a 200 percent tariff on auto imports coming from Mexico, over fears Chinese companies might try to flood the U.S. electric vehicle market via the southern border. Matt Rourke/AP

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are trying to one-up each other on tariffs, aiming to prove to Midwestern voters that they have the best plan to protect U.S. autoworkers from Chinese competition.

But their approaches would have wildly different effects — not just on domestic industry but also on the global economy.

President Biden on Tuesday will call for a quadrupling of tariffs on electric vehicles from China, along with higher duties on metals and other clean energy products — expanding on tariffs first instituted by Trump in 2018.


Trump now wants to go much further, laying plans for tariffs on electric vehicles coming from the U.S.’s largest trading partner — Mexico — which could be far more disruptive. Fearing a coming flood of cheap Chinese cars produced south of the border, the former president and his advisers are planning to impose steep auto tariffs on Mexico if it does not agree to halt the shipment of Chinese-made EVs into the U.S., according to federal lawmakers and three former Trump administration officials with knowledge of his plans.