U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider opening an investigation into the effect of vehicle imports on national security.
“I instructed Secretary Ross to consider initiating a Section 232 investigation into imports of automobiles, including trucks, and automotive parts to determine their effects on America’s national security,” Trump said in a statement after meeting with Ross.
On Thursday, China and Japan condemned Trump’s decision.
Trump has already used the provision to levy tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
Trump is seeking to levy a tariff of as much as 25 percent on automobile imports. The president, who has pledged to revive American manufacturing, has launched a series of trade actions, demanding that China import more American goods, starting talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and imposing the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Trump hinted at the action earlier Wednesday, tweeting: “There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers. After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!”
The Wall Street Journal, citing sources in the auto industry, said the plan most likely would face significant opposition from trading partners and auto dealers that sell imports.
It also is unlikely to pass muster with the World Trade Organization.
China’s Commerce Ministry said Beijing would “firmly defend” its rights and interests against what it called the Trump administration’s abuse of national security provisions in trade.
Japan’s minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko, warned that additional tariffs would put the global market into turmoil.
Seko said Japan, which accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. vehicle imports, will continue to remind U.S. trade officials that any trade measures must be in line with the rules of WTO.
Mexico is the top exporter of passenger vehicles and light trucks to the U.S followed by Japan, Canada, Germany and South Korea, according to the Department of Commerce.
However, in auto parts exports to the U.S., China was ranked second last year.