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‘Difficult to imagine’ EU SURPRISED by Trump’s auto import threat

26 May 2018

President Trump announced Wednesday that he had asked the Commerce Department to consider an investigation of automobile and auto-parts imports that could clear the way for imposing tariffs or quotas.

Speaking at a political forum, the candidate for the right-left For Mexico in Front coalition made the statement within the context of ongoing NAFTA negotiations, charging that United States President Donald Trump's decision to undertake the probe is another example of the USA government's lack of respect for its Mexican counterpart.

The proposal may see opposition from foreign trading partners to domestic auto dealers of imported vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier. "There is little to no hope for a defensible justification of auto tariffs though the Section 232 national security process", he wrote.

"There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from overseas have eroded our domestic auto industry", Ross said.

The aim of the probe, it said, is to determine whether imports of automobiles to the United States are damaging the economy and pose a threat to the country's national security.

Section 232 is the same statute that was invoked to allow the administration's tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

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Trump - whose protectionist platform helped launch him to the White House - has repeatedly floated the notion of steep tariffs that would shield the United States auto industry. She spoke to her counterparts, USA trade czar Robert Lighthizer and Mexican economic secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, on Monday and said they all agreed "to be in constant contact".

"So that was a very good activity [steel and aluminum tariffs] for us and we are looking forward to researching whether cars should be handled in a similar fashion", Ross said on CNBC's "Squawk Box".

Talks over a replacement for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada have made limitedprogress.

The majority of vehicles sold in the United States by Japanese and South Korean automakers are produced there, but most firms also export to the USA from plants in Asia, Mexico, Canada and other countries.

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Lawmakers from both Trump's Republican party and Democrats have rejected any easing of the ZTE sanctions, saying the move would pose a national security threat.

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The impact may be muted for USA automakers, which today export cars from the U.S.to China in limited volumes.

On Wednesday morning, Trump indicated some action is coming on autos, although it was unclear whether he was referring to ongoing talks with China, NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico or something else. "After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!"

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William Reinsch, a former Clinton administration trade official, said the proposal broke with traditional legal interpretations andwould disrupt industry supply chains and probably lead to job losses in the United States and elsewhere. Axios reports that the even the president's aids worry Trump is a "one trick pony" in negotiations, who will "threaten the outrageous, ratchet up the tension, amplify it with tweets and taunts, and then compromise on fairly conventional middle ground".

"They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there". The E.U. adds 10 percent to the cost of imported American models, while the United States imposes a levy of 2.5 percent on most imported cars and 25 percent on most pickups.

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‘Difficult to imagine’ EU SURPRISED by Trump’s auto import threat