Category: Trade War Watch

By on September 21, 2018

nafta-secretariat

The United States is getting extremely close to having to move forward on its NAFTA deal with Mexico without Canada, according to White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett.

“I’m a little surprised that the Canadians haven’t signed up yet,” Hassett said in an interview with Fox News. “I worry that politics in Canada is trumping common sense because there’s a very good deal that was designed by Mexico and the U.S. to appeal to Canada. And they’re not signing up and it’s got everybody over here a little bit puzzled.”

On Thursday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met in Washington to discuss terms. However, no agreement was reached.  Read More >

By on August 31, 2018

Donald Trump, public domain

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump took a renewed interest in European tariffs after deciding he didn’t like what he saw. He argued it was time for the United States to consider a fresh tax on vehicles manufactured in the European Union to level the playing field. “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a tax on their cars which freely pour into the U.S.,” he wrote in March.

A few months later, America floated the ridiculous-sounding proposal of abolishing all automotive tariffs between the U.S. and EU. Surprisingly, Europe was highly receptive. German Chancellor Angela Merkel even directly addressed the issue by saying she would support lowering EU tariffs on U.S. car imports. The European Union now seems willing to pursue a zero-tariff solution on automobiles.

However, Trump has since changed his tune. The new rhetoric coming from the White House is that the deal, which was originally pitched by the U.S., is no longer good enough.  Read More >

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.  Read More >

By on July 12, 2018

Donald Trump, public domain

The past week has seen a flurry of trade trade announcements — none of them particularly promising for the United States. After a brief moment where President Donald Trump’s tariff threats seemed to have a positive impact on the European Union, Germany threw new support behind China as the People’s Republic issued a stunningly large 40-percent retaliatory tax on vehicles imported from America.

While Europe and the U.S. still might work out a zero tariff deal on automobiles, the recent activity has led Trump to respond with another warning. He now claims if the region cannot engage in fair trading practices with the United States, he’ll further restrict imported cars. Read More >

By on July 11, 2018

China and Germany signed a collection of commercial accords valued at $23.5 billion this week. Meanwhile, the nations’ leaders publicly affirmed their commitment to a multilateral global trade order, while the United States adopts a more protectionist policy.

“We both want to sustain the system of World Trade Organization rules,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a press conference. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, also present, agreed and stated protectionism must be prevented for the good of the global economy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has already pleaded for governments to maintain an open trading policy. “We reject selfish, shortsighted, closed, narrow policies, [we] uphold World Trade Organisation rules, support a multi-lateral trade system, and building an open world economy,” Xi said in an incredibly hypocritical speech from last month.  Read More >

By on June 29, 2018

Automakers are not thrilled with the White House’s current interest in automotive tariffs. With factories scattered across the globe, no major manufacturer would go untouched by the proposed increases in import duties or the retaliatory tariffs foreign governments may issue in response.

There’s a lot to lose from a financial perspective. According to a recent analysis from Evercore ISI, Fiat Chrysler would take an annual hit of $866 million if the United States placed a 25-percent import tariff on cars. Considering that other automakers stand to lose at least that much, it’s unsurprising they’ve begun raising their corporate voices over the matter.

Granted, the FCA example is a worst-case scenario for that particular brand, but even a lesser tariff would see a profit loss of hundreds of millions. For an automaker like Mazda, the loss would be far worse. Read More >

By on June 26, 2018

Last week, we discussed how the motorcycle industry’s total failure to entice new riders for over a decade has come back to bite it in the ass. Two-wheeled ownership declined drastically in the United States after the Great Recession and never really bounced back. Blame a disinterested population of youngsters with less discretionary funds and few entry-level options to consider.

I speculated that automakers could be on a similar path, despite the passenger car segment being more of a necessity for average commuters and less apt to collapse outright. But that isn’t to presume they might not be subject to similar pitfalls, and we’ve a new one to consider. Harley-Davidson, which serves as the poster child for the motorcycle industry’s current crisis, recently announced it will end all U.S. production of motorcycles sold in Europe.

Those bikes will now be manufactured overseas. The company said in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that retaliatory tariffs levied by the European Union on motorcycles exported from the U.S. jumped from 6 percent to 31 percent. Harley-Davidson’s already expensive products come at an additional premium in Europe, and the the company estimates the new fines will add another $2,200 per motorcycle, on average. Read More >

By on June 25, 2018

Trump

The Trump administration is planning to impose incredibly restrictive investment limits against China. While the barriers could be argued as fair, considering China has some pretty serious restrictions of its own, the timing isn’t great. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pursued a less confrontational approach toward China after the nation showed some lenience in earlier promises to open its automotive and tech sectors through reduced tariffs, eventually eliminating state-mandated joint partnerships.

This move will no doubt make his job a lot more complicated.

It seems that the limits would restrict certain Chinese companies from investing in U.S. technology firms and block additional tech-related exports to Beijing. Among the industries most affect are robotics, aerospace, and automobiles — which have been labelled by the administration as a threat to economic and national security.  Read More >

By on June 21, 2018

The ground beneath the factory Volvo Cars opened Wednesday in South Carolina grew shakier after company executives warned that the U.S.-China trade dispute could undo plans to create up to 4,000 auto jobs in the state.

As you probably know, Volvo is currently owned by Chinese automaker Geely — which has a lot to lose if trade relations break down. Geely intends to export Volvo’s American-built cars to markets outside the United States. The situation’s a problematic one, as Volvo also imports the bulk of its U.S. market vehicles and any economic hurdles would surely gum up the works. Read More >

By on June 5, 2018

nafta-secretariat

Governance is one hell of a slippery fish. While you want your elected officials to assist in helping the nation evolve with an ever-changing society, you don’t want a deluge of contradictory and ill-planned laws mucking things up. That’s why the best progress is carefully measured and negotiated. But something has to happen eventually or you begin wondering what we (and the various lobbies) are paying these dingbats the big bucks for.

For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement looks like it’s about to be abandoned until sometime after 2019. After negotiations missed numerous self-imposed deadlines, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress needed a notice of intent to sign by roughly May 17th if anything was to be finalized for 2018. That date came and went. Now, everyone appears to have thrown their hands up, with practically every country on the planet currently considering retaliatory tariffs against the United States.  Read More >

By on May 31, 2018

There’s been quite a bit of the old “he said, she said” as the global trade war between developed nations coalesces. Germany has not covered U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policy favorably, not that it has much reason to. His new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum has tested relationships with numerous countries and, while it isn’t the biggest exporter of metal to the United States, Germany has something to lose. Likewise, proposed duties on passenger vehicles have sincerely rubbed Deutschland the wrong way.

However, the issue was further complicated this week after a gossipy report surfaced claiming Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron in April that he would continue hampering the European auto manufacturers until there are no Mercedes-Benz vehicles driving in America.  Read More >

By on May 30, 2018

There was a mighty blowback against the Trump administration’s suggestion to elevate tariffs to as much as 25 percent on all foreign-built passenger vehicles.

Already reeling from fresh import fees on aluminum and steel, Europe expressed its collective distaste on new taxes while Japan vowed to plead a strong case for itself. Meanwhile, prominent politicians and two of the largest automotive trade groups in the country came forward to condemn the plan, stating it was “confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk” to the United States.

While the administration has already launched its investigation to determine whether vehicle and auto part importers threaten the industry’s health and ability to develop advanced technologies, the government noted that a second opinion wouldn’t hurt. Announced on Tuesday in the Federal Register, the the Commerce Department will allot two days in July for public comments on the matter.  Read More >

By on May 29, 2018

Audi Q2 factory production

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.” Read More >

By on May 22, 2018

LaCross Avenir CHINA

China has announced plans to slash import fees on automobiles to 15 percent starting this July. While the tariff currently rides high at 25 percent, the country’s Ministry of Finance said reducing it was part of an intentional effort to open up China’s markets and spur development within the local automotive sector.

It may also have been part of a peace offering. President Donald Trump has been pretty clear on China’s trade policies with the United States, frequently referring to them as unfair. The U.S. imposes a svelte 2.5 percent fee on imported vehicles — unless we’re talking about trucks. “Does that sound like free or fair trade?” Trump tweeted last month. “No, it sounds like STUPID TRADE — going on for years!” Read More >

By on May 1, 2018

Steel Mill

May kicked off with a bundle of trade deals going into hibernation mode. After some legitimate — albeit quaint — progress, NAFTA decided to take a break this week. Currently, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is in China to circumvent that brewing trade war and is unable to commit himself to the North American Free Trade Agreement’s renegotiation.

That’s probably fine, because Mexico’s auto reps need time to cool off.

The United States’ most recent proposal for increasing NAFTA’s regional automotive content includes a four-year evolvement to meet a 75-percent regional value threshold. It also suggests new labor rules requiring “substantial work” to be set at wages of $16 an hour or more. The move is intended to help the U.S. and Canada bolster production and force Mexico to raise its own wages.

A significant portion of Mexican trade officials aren’t keen on either aspect, resulting in a mixed response overall.  Read More >

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