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Trump faces growing storm over car tariffs

Washington

THE procession of industry groups and foreign governments lining up to oppose President Donald Trump's car tariffs is starting to look like a rush-hour traffic jam.

The Commerce Department will hold public hearings later on its probe into whether imports of passenger vehicles imperil US national security. Judging from the list of speakers, the administration will find little if any support for the idea that foreign cars undermine America's ability to defend itself.

That's a stark contrast from the US investigation into steel and aluminium imports earlier this year. In that case, American steel producers and steelworker unions lobbied for tariffs, giving Mr Trump political cover to eventually slap duties on foreign shipments.

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"This one is much more of an uphill climb for the administration," said Edward Alden, a senior fellow and trade expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "We're starting to see the damage from the steel and aluminium tariffs and the various retaliations. The impact of this action is so much larger than those that the opposition is going to be far better mobilised and far stronger."

The stakes are high for the world economy and the global auto industry. In recent weeks, investors have been focused on the potential impact of US tariffs on Chinese imports. But tariffs on car imports could do even more damage - more than double the amount of all other US tariffs already implemented or proposed, according the IMF.

A US assault on foreign cars would further strain relations with allies such as Germany and Canada as Mr Trump questions pillars of the Western order such as the Group of Seven and Nato.

The president is scheduled to meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker next week as Europe pushes for a global deal to cut auto tariffs. BLOOMBERG