Category: Trade

By on November 16, 2018

It’s been a trade-heavy week. Earlier, the White House decided to postpone any major tariff decisions following a discussion with the Commerce Department over a draft report on the impact of auto imports, giving trade representatives from the United States and European Union room to talk.

Unfortunately, things don’t appear to have gone swimmingly. European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström left her Wednesday meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer promising that the EU would have retaliatory tariffs at the ready if America pulls the trigger on auto import duties. However, she also said some progress was made during her talk with Lighthizer, but had nothing conclusive to announce

Negotiating with the EU has grown difficult and, frankly, the automotive aspects have become less important of late. The European Union is now discussing the possibility of creating its own army, leaving president Trump to tweet angrily about historical precedents.  Read More >

By on November 14, 2018

The Trump administration was supposed to make an announcement Tuesday as to whether or not imported automobiles pose a national security risk, following discussions with trade representatives. While it wasn’t presumed that the White House would say anything truly definitive or hold a formal press conference on the issue, it was assumed that the president would take a stronger public stance either for or against an earlier proposal to raise foreign auto import tariffs to 25 percent. And it has, in a way.

According to those familiar with the matter, the White House decided to postpone any major decisions after discussing a draft Commerce Department report on the impact of auto imports with trade reps. However, the administration doesn’t have forever to make up its mind. Nor does its trading partners, which could be the point.  Read More >

By on October 23, 2018

Ford badge emblem logo

Ford Motor Co. is blaming Donald Trump’s commodity tariffs for elevating U.S. steel prices higher than any other market on the planet. Regardless of your opinion on the president’s policies (the economy is reportedly booming), it’s a little hard to rebuff Ford’s criticisms on this one. The automaker’s now going straight to the source in an attempt to remedy the situation.

Trump hasn’t gone easy on Ford. He spent a large portion of his presidential campaign coming down on the automaker over its plan to move small-car production to Mexico. However, the company’s about-face proved a short-lived victory — it ultimately decided to stop selling cars altogether. This was followed by Ford’s cull of the upcoming Focus Active in North America after Trump’s 25 percent levy on Chinese-built vehicle made the introduction impossible (and unprofitable).  Read More >

By on October 1, 2018

2019 Lincoln Nautilus, Image: Ford Motor Company

Canada’s autoworkers feel pretty confident they’ll still have a job next year, as the free trade agreement reached by the U.S. and its northern neighbor Sunday night pretty much keeps the status quo alive in that country’s auto sector.

Just last week, with headway essentially absent from the trade negotiations, President Trump repeated his threat of levying a 25 percent import tax on Canadian vehicles. Such a tariff could easily have seen 160,000 jobs erased from the auto and parts manufacturing industries; perhaps more.

However, just because the industry came out all right in the end doesn’t mean the future is entirely rosy. Read More >

By on October 1, 2018

FCA Brampton Assembly Line Challenger & 300 - Image: FCA

Following some furious 11th hour bargaining, Canada reached an agreement with U.S. trade negotiators Sunday night, marking the end of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the creation of its successor, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. USMCA, for short.

While some of the finer details have yet to be released, the trilateral trade deal prevents the nightmare scenario of heavy tariffs levied on vehicles imported from Canada. To keep General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Honda, and Toyota plants humming, officials in the Great White North reluctantly offered up some milk and cheese. Read More >

By on September 27, 2018

Man, if you live south of the 49th parallel, you missed quite a hubbub yesterday evening. Actually, Americans likely caught a whiff of it, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s lengthy post-UN press conference Wednesday covered a lot of topics, including the one that had Canucks up in arms.

Up here in the Great White North, a country some commenters would prefer to never see mentioned (as this writer apparently mentions it ALL THE TIME), trade remains an understandably hot topic. Canada hasn’t reached a renegotiated free trade agreement with the U.S., unlike Mexico, and there’s a Sunday deadline looming to sign on to the U.S.-Mexico accord. Tick tock. Among other planks, Canada wants to protect its dairy cartel — an entity not universally loved up here, as it greatly increases the price of common food staples on store shelves. However, protecting jobs in that sector means risking jobs in the larger auto sector, a crucial industry whose vehicles Trump has threatened to tax to the tune of perhaps 25 percent. Auto parts could see a 10 percent tariff.

Canada exported $48.8 billion worth of vehicles in 2016.

Toyota, Honda, and the Detroit Three all have assembly plants in Ontario. Last night’s news conference brought nothing but worry to the nearly 200,000 people employed in the vehicle and parts manufacturing sector. What would it mean if Trump pulls the tariff trigger? And is Canada blameless in not yet reaching a deal? Read More >

By on September 26, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ignored mounting pressure from the United States to quickly agree to a new NAFTA deal on Wednesday. Trudeau indicated it was possible for the three nations to maintain a trilateral agreement, but noted his priorities would always align with what’s best for Canada. The nation now seems fine with ditching the agreement altogether.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that an agreement reached with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe allows the two countries to begin trade negotiations. The focus of these talks will likely be automotive in nature. Trump has remained oddly fixated with convincing Japan to sell more American-made models ever since taking office, and the Land of the Rising Sun doesn’t want itself saddled with import tariffs.  Read More >

By on September 26, 2018

Ford’s decision to construct the current-generation F-150’s body purely of aluminum paid off in terms of lightweighting, fuel economy, and sales, but rising commodity costs over the past couple of years eroded some of the financial benefit. There’s far greater headaches facing Ford these days, as the industry grapples with tariffs on not just imported aluminum and steel, but vehicles as well.

A second income-sucking tariff hit in July, when the U.S. applied an import duty of 25 percent on a slew of Chinese goods, prompting China to up its own tariffs on American goods, including automobiles. Ford isn’t having it. Having already lost $1 billion in profit, CEO Jim Hackett has a message for President Trump. Read More >

By on September 25, 2018

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said the United States will begin moving forward on its bilateral trade deal with Mexico at the risk of leaving Canada behind.

The nation was already given until the end of September to reach an agreement that would effectively maintain the existence North American Free Trade Agreement, but has not indicated satisfaction with the current terms. Unfortunately, the U.S. wants to ensure a deal is in place before the next Mexican president assumes office — giving it precious little time to spend on Canada after the last year’s worth of negotiations proved ineffective.

“If we push it beyond [October 1st], then we have a new negotiation with Lopez Obrador and we don’t know where that would go at all,” Lighthizer said. “It would be unfair to all the people that have been involved — certainly the U.S. workers, farmers and ranchers — to start a new negotiation with a new president of Mexico.”  Read More >

By on September 25, 2018

2016 Toyota Prius Four - Image: Toyota

While the trade situation is still very much in flux, Toyota sees itself as standing to gain from the turmoil, just not in the United States. The automaker, along with other Japanese brands, finds itself in an advantageous position in China — a massive market facing its own troubles.

China’s anger at the U.S., and vice versa, could mean big bucks in the short term for Toyota. Read More >

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

U.S. Ford Focus production ended in May, but the automaker planned to import the next-generation Focus Active, a slightly lifted, mildly cladded five-door, in order to have something to sell to entry-level buyers. With the subcompact Fiesta ceasing production early next spring and the Fusion following it a couple of years later, that left very little low-end product for new or returning customers.

Well, scratch a crossoverized Focus off your shopping list. The automaker now says the Focus Active will not arrive on these shores in the latter part of 2019, or any date after that.

After learning this, how many of you are now pricing a three-cylinder, FWD EcoSport? Anyone? Hello? 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 27, 2018

Trump

President Donald Trump announced a trade “understanding” with Mexico on Monday — not to be confused with an official deal — that would lead to an overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump made the announcement from the Oval Office, with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto listening in by speakerphone.

While it’s still too early to show up in a Lockheed S-3 Viking and tell the world “mission accomplished,” the announcement is the most overt example of progress on NAFTA we’ve seen. Interesting, considering it seemed as if Trump was openly calling for its death during the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Mexican officials said trade talks with the U.S. had concluded, adding that an announcement could come later in the day. The White House confirmed the reports an hour later on its government website, with Donald Trump stating there was a “big deal looking good with Mexico” via twitterRead More >

By on August 24, 2018

If you’re anything like this author, you’ve probably abandoned discussing the North American Free Trade Agreement in your personal life. That’s not because it stopped being important, but rather due to the fact that none of the three countries involved seem capable of making any sort of progress.

Presently, the United States and Mexico are focusing on rules associated with automotive production. However, after two days of non-stop negotiation, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the two sides haven’t resolved their differences on the pending issues. Now Mexico says it won’t consider further negotiations until Canada agrees to a deal.

Here’s where things get remarkably shitty. Canada has already explained that it’s waiting for the U.S. and Mexico to strike a deal of their own. “If they can resolve their differences on [automotive trade], then I think we can move ahead and have the three of us talk about some of the other issues that affect all of us,” David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S, said in an interview earlier this month.  Read More >

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