Trade War Watch: Automakers Respond to U.S. Import Investigation, Japan Keeps the Faith

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
trade war watch automakers respond to u s import investigation japan keeps the

President Trump announced a security investigation into auto imports last week, tasking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with the job. His goal will be to determine what effects imported vehicles have on the national security of the United States under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — which sounds like a monumental and rather complex task.

Basically, Ross will examine whether or not the U.S. can get away with escalating automotive tariffs. That’s a touchy subject, considering how contentious global trade has become in recent months. Worse yet, the 80-year-old commerce secretary will have to continue promoting American businesses and industries outside its borders while deciding on an issue few trade partners will be happy with.

Automakers aren’t thrilled either. After Trump announced the investigation, the Association of Global Automakers and Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers both said they didn’t believe vehicle imports posed a national security risk. “To our knowledge, no one is asking for this protection. If these tariffs are imposed, consumers are going to take a big hit,” said John Bozella, President of Global Automakers, in a statement. “This course of action will undermine the health and competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes domestic manufacturers, was similarly concerned. In a statement, it wrote:

This investigation under Section 232 is a process that has rarely been used and traditionally has not focused on finished products. We are confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk to the U.S. Last year, 13 domestic and international automakers manufactured nearly 12 million vehicles in the U.S. The auto sector remains the leading exporter of manufactured goods in our country. During the last 25 years, 15 new manufacturing plants have been launched in the U.S. — resulting in the creation of an additional 50,000 direct and 350,000 indirect auto jobs throughout America — and new plants are on the way. We urge the Administration to support policies that remove barriers to free trade and we will continue to work with them and provide input to achieve that goal.

Presently, the United States imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on passenger cars and a 25 percent import fee on light trucks. While China has promised to reduce its own passenger vehicle tariffs from 25 to 15 percent this summer, the European Union is expected to to stick with its 10 percent import duty on cars and trucks for the foreseeable future.

Japan, which has has more skin in the game than most, has a lot to lose if the U.S. imposes new tariffs. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he would seek to convince President Trump of the crucial role his country’s automakers play in helping the U.S. economy thrive.

“Japanese automakers have created jobs and made huge contributions to the U.S. economy,” Abe told parliament, when asked how Japan would respond to the United States’s national security investigation.”As a country that prioritizes a rule-based, multilateral trade system, Japan believes that any steps taken on trade must be in line with World Trade Organization rules.”

Japanese automakers build roughly twice as many cars within the United States than they import. Still, Trump has been critical of American cars’ inability to take off in the Land of the Rising Sun. We should add that issue is incredibly complex and has less to do with tariffs than it does the public perception of American autos, plus high costs associated with establishing and running dealer networks inside Japan.

At any rate, Abe says he’ll remain committed to maintaining a strong relationship between Japan and the United States and will continue to encourage the Western nation to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Japan has explained to the United States its stance that TPP is the best format for both countries. We will continue to talk with the United States based on this view,” he said.

[Image: Audi] [Source: Reuters]

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  • Sub-600 Sub-600 on May 30, 2018

    Big Al just went six consecutive posts without using the term ‘chicken tax’. Either he’s warming to the idea or the “c” key is busted on his Chinese laptop.

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on May 30, 2018

    TW5, US vehicle manufacturers have to look at how they oprate, as does US healthcare. If there is such a wide margin of cost vs quality in providing health cover compared to every other competitor then the whole of the US health industry needs to change. Obamacare did not address big pharma, insurance, legal, AMA,etc. Its the control, rules, regulations giving US citizens poorer health cover. The auto industry (Big 3) is in a similar position. Controls, rules and regulation is much different than the competition. Hence, its harder to compete. It seems the US should look at changing the way its auto manufacturers operate to become competitive to produce more exports.

  • Fred I owned a 2001 MR2 for 15 years nothing ever went wrong with the vehicle. It was always exciting to drive most people thought it was a boxster. The only negative was storage and legroom considering I'm a little over 6:4 the only reason it was sold was as a second car and a grandchild on the way we needed something more practical.
  • V16 I'm sure most people could find 155,365 reasons to choose another luxury brand SUV and pocket the difference.
  • ChristianWimmer I don’t want this autonomous driving garbage technology in any car.My main fear is this. Once this technology is perfected, freedom-hating eco hysterical governments (crap hole Germany, UK and the European Union in general) will attempt to ban private car ownership because “you don’t need to own a car anymore since the car can come to you, drop you off and then proceed to service the next customer”... no thanks. Having your own car is FREEDOM.Go away, autonomous driving. I also enjoy the act of driving a car. I want to drive, not be driven.
  • Mike-NB2 The solution is obvious here. Everyone should be raised in an Irish Catholic family and then all it takes is a sideways glance from mom and you're atoning for that sin for the rest of your life. My mother has been dead for decades and I still want to apologize to her. Catholic guilt is a real thing. 😁
  • Wjtinfwb A good car. I don't find Accord's as appealing as they were a decade or two ago, not that they've gotten worse, but the competition has gotten better. It would be my choice if I had to pay for it myself and maintain it for 10 years and 150k miles. They'd be very reliable and no doubt inexpensive miles, but probably a pretty boring 10 years.