WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Biden administration is taking a tougher stance on trade with China just as international trade policy takes center stage in Ohio’s Senate race. 

What You Need To Know

  • As President Joe Biden takes a tougher stance on trade with China, trade policy is taking center stage in Ohio's Senate race

  • Sen. Sherrod Brown and Bernie Moreno have both criticized unfair Chinese trade practices that hurt American workers

  • Brown is calling for further action, such as banning Chinese imports of electric vehicles

On the same day President Joe Biden visited the United Steelworkers union headquarters in Pittsburgh, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai laid out the administration’s trade policy agenda at a hearing in the Senate.

One main focus was Chinese trade practices that Tai said hurt American workers. China’s labor and environmental standards are often laxer than those in America, leading to lower worker pay and decreased business costs. Combined with state subsidies for certain industries, companies are able to sell products cheaply overseas.  Many American businesses, unable to compete, have gone out of business.

“For many years now we have seen how the PRC’s non-market policies and practices, left unchecked, have devastated many working communities and industries across our country,” Tai said. “Steel, aluminum, solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles, and critical minerals—just to name a few sectors. “

More than 40 steel companies have gone out of business since 1990, hitting Ohio’s steel companies particularly hard.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, said U.S. trade policy needed to do more to protect American jobs.

“[We have] closed factories and jobs leaving town because of bad trade agreements. Those jobs went south for cheap wages. Companies lobbied Congress and presidents to pass trade agreements, and they went overseas,” Brown said. “When China cheats, we need strong tools to stop them from cheating and to enforce American trade laws.”

President Joe Biden has made similar pronouncements. On Wednesday he called to triple the current tariff rate on Chinese steel and aluminum imports, which currently averages 7.5%.

Brown is calling for the government to go further by rejecting the proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel by Japanese steel company Nippon, as well as banning Chinese imports of electric vehicles.

“China has consistently demonstrated they will not play by the global rules of trade. We’re concerned about the dumping of electric vehicles,” he said.

White House officials said Thursday that they would consider the request.

“I think the issue of Chinese electric vehicles—not playing by the rules, artificially low prices—is of great concern to the President,” said Gene Sperling, senior advisor to the President. “What we want is a choice to have those hybrid or electric vehicle alternatives that are made in the United States… So I think you can expect to see some pretty tough action from the President.”

The U.S. Trade Representative is also launching an investigation into China's unfair trade practices in shipbuilding, which United Steelworkers said has hurt American companies.

While Brown has long championed worker rights and more trade restrictions, the issue has become central to his reelection campaign against businessman Bernie Moreno in the fall.

Moreno has also been vocal about unfair Chinese trade practices. Yet he came under criticism Thursday at an AFL-CIO press conference in Toledo after Spectrum News reporting revealed the former car dealer sold vehicles that were made in China, despite telling voters multiple times that he wouldn’t.

“Moreno put himself first and sold Chinese-made cars while Ohio industry jobs were shipped overseas,” said Tony Totty, president of UAW Local 14.

Moreno’s campaign said he supports Ohio workers more effectively than Brown, writing in a statement,

"Bernie supports President Trump's America First trade policies and was supportive of his tariffs on our adversaries including China. Sherrod Brown tells his constituents that he is a friend of workers, but since he has been in elected office in Washington, 200,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Ohio thanks to the left-wing agenda that he champions. Brown talks tough on China but supports the Biden administration's EV mandates that benefit China, and would not co-sponsor a bill that would protect American automakers and workers from a market influx of Chinese-made vehicles. Additionally, the open-borders policies that he supports not only harms our communities in Ohio but drives down wages for workers. Brown can tell Ohioans he stands with workers, but his voting record says otherwise."