The government of President Donald Trump began an investigation on Wednesday on whether it is necessary to impose tariffs on the importation of automobiles into the United States, moving quickly after the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement stalled. Trump previously predicted that US auto makers and industrial workers would be “very happy” with the outcome of the NAFTA negotiations. The president asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to weigh whether the importation of cars, trucks and auto parts threatens national security, the White House said in a statement.
The president said in the text that “key industries such as automotive and auto parts are fundamental to our strength as a country.” The United States remains very distanced in the talks to renegotiate the trade pact with Mexico and Canada, and talks have stalled around the rules of automotive production. The beginning of the commercial investigation could be perceived as an attempt to obtain advantages in the negotiations with its two neighboring countries.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that efforts to renegotiate the trade agreement could be prolonged until next year. Almost half of the vehicles sold in the United States are imported, and many of them come from assembly plants in Mexico and Canada. During a meeting with executives from the auto industry earlier this month, Trump said he would push for an increase in vehicle production at US plants. He also criticized the importation of cars and auto parts from the European Union, and earlier this year threatened to tax for European imports.
The expert opinion
According to anonym expert in automotive industry, “the president probably set the new tariffs between 20 and 25% to the automotive import”. Trump showed a weapon rarely used in his fight to protect workers in the auto industry: “section 232 of the Commercial Expansion Act of 1962”. The clause authorizes the president to restrict imports and impose unlimited tariffs based on safety national. The federal government used that authority in March to impose tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on imports of aluminum.
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