Washington:President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday officially delayed imposing tariffs on imported automobiles and parts for up to six months, confirming media reports from earlier this week .
A White House statement noted Trump has directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate agreements to address the national security threat posed by auto imports.
“United States defense and military superiority depend on the competitiveness of our automobile industry and the research and development that industry generates,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
She added, “The negotiation process will be led by United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and, if agreements are not reached within 180 days, the President will determine whether and what further action needs to be taken.”
Trump had faced a Saturday deadline to impose the tariffs or delay the decision to allow for further negotiations with the European Union and Japan.
The decision to delay the tariffs on auto imports comes as Trump is already facing an escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
With news of increased tariffs on Chinese goods already roiling the stock markets, the president may have been reluctant to impose additional tariffs and risk further weakness on Wall Street.
Trump has previously used national security concerns to justify imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, drawing criticism from lawmakers for acting unilaterally and going around Congress.
While delaying what would be a sizeable escalation in Trump’s multi-front trade wars, the decision leaves hanging the threat of tariffs — a move sure to irritate major trading partners already angered by the imposition of punishing US duties on steel and aluminum.
The EU, Canada and Mexico have already slapped stinging duties on American exports like motorcycles, orange juice, whisky and blue jeans in response.
Negotiations expected to resolve the impasse with the EU will now occur with the backdrop of Trump’s auto tariffs threat.
In his proclamation on Friday, Trump described the US auto sector as facing decline due to unfair foreign competition.
A report by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross concluded that America’s shrinking share of the auto market jeopardized its research, development and manufacturing — all “vital to national security.”