By on August 10, 2018

Mercedes-Benz sport-utility vehicles assembled in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are being checked for potential problems by Chinese customs authorities in Shanghai, according to the nation’s media. The situation was later confirmed by Daimler AG on Thursday.

Officially, custom agents discovered the imported GLE and GLS models possess “insufficient” rear brakes and pose a safety risk. However, this isn’t China’s first time holding up product from the Tuscaloosa factory. Daimler confirmed that its American-made SUVs, along with vehicles from Ford, were held up for several weeks in late April. 

According to Reuters, a China-based Ford executive said the company was being asked to perform additional checks on emission components. Meanwhile, a second unnamed industry official said China subjected BMW and Daimler to similar delays. BMW later denied the claims, however.

“Customs pretends there are technical non-conformities of some nature that won’t allow them to clear these U.S.-made cars through customs, but the U.S.-China trade frictions must be the background to this,” the official said. “Although no one will officially admit it.”

Japanese and German vehicles built outside the United States aren’t facing similar delays at Chinese ports. While this may be indicative of nothing, the holdup of American goods extends beyond the automotive realm and seems to coincide with periods of particularly aggressive trade decisions from the United States. For example, the April customs hold-up took place immediately after President Trump accused China of stealing American technologies through joint-venture requirements and unfair listening practices, all while preparing $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.

The more recent port delay with Mercedes took place as Chinese authorities prepared additional retaliatory tariffs of 25 percent on $16 billion worth of U.S. imports from numerous industries, including automotive.

American-made vehicles are subject to an elevated import tariff of 40 percent, though China kept its promise with the rest of the world and reduced automotive duties to just 15 percent. Last month, this helped raise the number of vehicles imported into the nation from countries other than the United States. Foreign automakers shipped 165,000 vehicles into China through July, breaking the previous record of 134,000 from four years earlier.

“We are working with the relevant authorities to resolve the issue,” a Daimler spokeswoman said on Thursday. The company could not identify the number of vehicles affected but described the situation as an “entirely technical issue.”

The United States has a new 25 percent tariff on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods scheduled for August 23rd, the same day China imposes its import fee of the same amount. We’ll let you know if more American-made vehicles find themselves in need of additional safety checks at Chinese ports.

[Image: Daimler AG]

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28 Comments on “Trade War Watch: American-Made Mercedes-Benz SUVs Held Up at Chinese Ports Over ‘Safety Risk’...”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I smell a rat, too. I wasn’t aware customs agents were qualified to inspect a car in this way.

    It sounds retaliatory to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course it is. China is a communist country with a ruthlessly authoritarian government. They have any number of buttons they can push to make it difficult/impossible for US companies to do business in China.

      The Trumpkins look exclusively at the trade deficit and stupidly conclude that tariffs will solve the problem – “trade wars are easy to win”. China can revoke executive approvals, business licences, banking/foreign exchange access, etc., if they choose. Enhanced customs inspections is just a warning shot.

      The Chinese government can, if it wants, simply decide that no more GM cars will be sold in the country, and make it stick. If they do, where does that leave GM?

      I have no love for the Chinese government or its trade policies over the years. But we are where we are, and the appropriate policy to addressing China’s wrongdoings would be to build an international coalition to apply targeted sanctions in order to achieve predefined agreed objectives. Which Trump is incapable of doing.

      • 0 avatar

        We lost the trade war a long time ago, we can only win with tariffs. Sorry if your Walmart goods cost a couple dollars more but that’s the cost of keeping jobs in America.
        China’s economy has been crashing the past couple of weeks, at this point they’re a wild animal backed into a corner. They never thought that America would get another president with the balls to call them on their BS. China is in a serious economic predicament, if America holds steady it will have serious ramifications on China.

        You seem to forget how much America imports from China, if China wants to play a game with our exports they had better be prepared to face reciprocal trade actions.

        • 0 avatar

          “China’s economy has been crashing the past couple of weeks” Really? What evidence is there of such a rapid crash?

          “we can only win with tariffs” Actually, we’ve been proving since at least 1846 that tariffs kill jobs and reduce prosperity – which is why countries have been trying since 1945 to move to freer/free trade. Smoot-Hawley was a disaster, not a success.

          “if China wants to play a game with our exports they had better be prepared to face reciprocal trade actions” Empty words. As a Communist country, China has access to a wide range of business harassment tools that are not available to the US government.

      • 0 avatar

        @ ect: Nobody gives a shit about your leftist politics. At least Trump is finally addressing the insanity of decades of gutting America’s manufacturing base, while our supposed “allies” effectively block us from their markets. Your hallowed Saint Obama didn’t do shit. Other than boast about his ‘strategic patience.’ Grow up.

    • 0 avatar

      China warned us they would use non-tariff retaliatory measures against US exports as well, and slow-walking routine business is one of those. They kept their word…

    • 0 avatar

      Trump is being very fair with everyone involved and I say that as a Canadian. If and who starts being a douche (China) is the prick.

  • avatar

    They don’t call it a trade war for nothing.

  • avatar

    It could also be that Daimler just practiced corruption a bit sloppily. They have been revealed to have been involved in corrupt practices before in their export activities, so it could in theory be that they paid off the wrong guy (during a change of power in Chinese customs), the wrong amount, or offended someone somehow. This is the type of stunt corrupt customs officials might do to punish a company…however they’d usually probably hope to keep it out of the public eye.

  • avatar

    when globalization finally fails, MB will come from Germany, Ford from US and Honda from Japan

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Maybe those rear brakes really are insufficient.

  • avatar

    Mercedes is likely to support the Democratic candidate in our next Presidential election. Soybean farmers will, too.

  • avatar

    If the US played hardball with Chinese trade, the Chinese economy would collapse and their newly anointed “President for life” would be overthrown. Their entire economic existence is based on trade with the US.

    When the Chinese pull this, it’s like an annoying gnat for us.
    I guess soybean farmers might feel a pinch, but it’s not even a rounding error in our economy.

    They have everything to lose. We don’t.

    I’m also amused how “sacrosanct” free trade has become with an authoritarian, communist government that has zero respect for human rights or democracy. The country literally bans Winnie the Pooh because it offends the Chinese leader. We should never bend a knee to this crazy country.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You’re making sense.

      But we bend the knee because we value lower prices more than the principle of human rights. Actually, economics usually trumps civil rights and humanitarianism inside the US borders as well.

      I think it’s that simple.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      You’re missing some things:

      We have so much trade with China because ‘patriotic’ American companies CHOOSE to make higher profits by producing in China. They’re fine with the technology sharing; they agreed to it as part of achieving those higher profits.

      If you think that these American corporations are going to allow US politicians to close down their operations and reduce their profits, you don’t know how our pay-to-play congress works.

      Americans couldn’t stand buying American goods, because their entire sense of financial success is based on cheap Chinese imports. Workers would realize that their wages aren’t sufficient to buy US-made goods. And US products’ prices will rise, just as US steel makers arbitrarily jacked up prices when the tariffs were applied. (there’s no patriotism in capitalism)

      We have lots to lose, because we chose to make ourselves vulnerable. Choosing our own authoritarian leader with little respect for human rights or democracy hasn’t made us any stronger.

      • 0 avatar

        Somehow just a few decades, almost nothing was made in China and Americans survived. And had better quality goods and wages weren’t so stagnant.

        And I’m learning when people use “authoritarian” here in the US it means “person I didn’t vote for” and cheapens it to where actual authoritarian dictatorships abroad are overlooked.

        See what happens if you’re Chinese and criticize their government, you’ll likely end up in prison.

      • 0 avatar

        Three-legged stool…the US government (for decades) has made it difficult for companies to truly prosper in America with laws and regs; companies chase short-term profits over long-term prosperity of the very consumers that make them viable; and finally, consumers in America long-ago “voted” with their dollars that cheap goods were more important than the stability and employment of their neighbors, friends and family.

    • 0 avatar

      More a Fascist country these days.

      And can thank big biz (led by Walmart) for the mass movement of manufacturing jobs to China.

      • 0 avatar

        unfortunately, the tariffs are going to squeeze out small family farms in favor of the big biz farms.

        You’re right about Walmart. Always trying to drive down costs.

    • 0 avatar

      12237.70 USD Billion GDP, China, 2017
      505 USD Billion export to USA 2017

      Their entire economic existence is NOT based on trade with the US. China itself is huge market for its companies, e.g. 28,8 million cars sold in 2017.

    • 0 avatar

      The level of arrogance is this post is impressive. Without the US, China would surely be affected. But it has trade relationships and integration with so many parts of the world that there is no way they would collapse. This might have been true 30 years ago, but it certainly is not today.

  • avatar

    Drop the nuclear weapon on China ASAP! That being end Most Favored Nation (MFN) status for them. They’ll come crawling back to the negotiating table quicker than farts leave a fan factory.

  • avatar

    “Chinese officials concerned about safety”

    *slaps knee*

    • 0 avatar

      HotPotato…that was my initial thought, too. Kinda rich thinking the Chinese officials were concerned about “insufficient” brakes on a Benz. Oh, the irony…

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