Trump Gets Report on Would-Be Import Auto Threat

February 18, 2019 at 2:05 AM

President Donald Trump has received a Dept. of Commerce analysis about the relative threat to U.S. security of imported cars and trucks.

The report, which has not yet been made public, is widely expected to assert there is a plausible argument for curbing imported vehicles. Trump will have 90 days in which to decide how to respond.

The report is believed to describe options to an all-inclusive tariff that include a mix of taxes and import quotas, variable levies, or tariffs limited to certain types of vehicles or specific countries.

The Trump administration used the same argument last year under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, to justify import tariffs of 25% on steel and 15% on aluminum. The White House rationale is that imports siphon off potential sales by domestic producers, thereby reducing local capacity and weakening the nation’s defense capabilities.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to impose taxes as great as 25% on imported cars, SUV/crossovers, light-duty pickup trucks/vans and imported vehicle components used by domestic carmakers.

Canada, Mexico and the European Union have been temporarily exempted from any new vehicle tariffs, pending the outcome of potential trade deals with those markets.

The National Automobile Dealers Assn. estimates that a 25% duty would push up the retail price of affected domestic and imported vehicles by nearly $2,300 and $6,900, respectively.