Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he is considering import tariffs to protect the US auto industry, which was rocked by this week’s announcement of job cuts at General Motors.
In two tweets, the president said that extending tariffs already in place for foreign-built small trucks to the car sector would help domestic manufacturers.
“The reason that the small truck business in the U.S. is such a go to favorite is that, for many years, Tariffs of 25% have been put on small trucks coming into our country,” he wrote. “If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here…..”
Trump told Congress to “get smart” and added: “The President has great power on this issue – Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!”
The president, who has made trade wars a signature of his “America first” administration, was angered by GM’s decision to cut thousands of jobs in a series of plant closures, including two in Ohio and Michigan.
On Tuesday, Trump threatened to cut government subsidies to the auto giant, which was saved by a taxpayer bailout in the wake of the 2008 US financial meltdown.
Trump’s saber-rattling over car tariffs follows a German magazine report that the measures could be announced as early as next week, targeting all autos apart from those made in Canada and Mexico.
On Wednesday, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom warned that retaliation would follow.
“The EU has a retaliation tariffs list ready if the US imposes autos tariffs on the EU,” she said.
The EU has already retaliated against the United States earlier this year for the steep and what it says are “deeply unjustified” tariffs Trump imposed on steel and aluminum.
Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July to hold off on any new tariffs while negotiations are underway.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on China to come to a deal with the United States to avoid a massive new round of tariffs that Trump says are aimed at correcting decades of unfair Chinese trade practices.
He will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires at a dinner during the Group of 20 summit that runs Friday and Saturday.