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In reversal of Trump move, Biden to keep levies on UAE aluminium

The White House has also paused a Trump-era deal to sell 50 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.

United States President Joe Biden will maintain a tariff rate of 10 percent on aluminium imports from the United Arab Emirates, reversing Donald Trump’s move to end the levies on his last day as president, the White House said.

Biden’s Republican predecessor had announced on January 20 that he would exempt the UAE from the tariff on most aluminium imports, saying the two countries had reached a quota agreement that would restrict them.

The exemption was due to take effect on Wednesday.

Trump granted the exemption shortly after designating the UAE a “major security partner” and signing a deal to sell it 50 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets.

Last week, the Biden administration said it would also temporarily pause that deal, and some others, to review them.

The White House decision late on Monday said the aluminium tariff would be more effective in protecting domestic producers than the “untested quota” announced by Trump.

“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.

“I consider it is necessary and appropriate in light of our national security interests to maintain, at this time, the tariff treatment applied to aluminium article imports from the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

No comment was immediately available from the UAE embassy in Washington.

Biden did not address broader ties with the UAE or the arms sales, focusing on problems in the US aluminium industry – a sector seen as essential to national security.

Aluminium ranks as the UAE’s biggest exported goods by value to the US. The Arab nation sold $1.3bn worth of the metal to American buyers in 2019, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Trump first imposed the tariff in 2018 to revive idled aluminium facilities, open closed smelters and mills and boost domestic production by cutting US reliance on foreign producers, Biden said, adding that need still existed.

He said the US Department of Commerce had denied 32 of 33 exemption requests from UAE producers before Trump’s 11th-hour decision.

US data also showed a drop of 25 percent in aluminium imports from the UAE after the tariff, matched by a rise of 22 percent in domestic aluminium production through 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began, the White House said.

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