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159 U.S. lawmakers urge Trump administration not to impose auto tariffs

Christian Fernsby |
A bipartisan group of 159 U.S. lawmakers wrote to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, urging him to advise President Donald Trump against imposing tariffs on imported cars and car parts.

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The lawmakers are led by Representative Terri Sewell from the southeastern U.S. state of Alabama, where auto manufacturers are a powerful driver of the local economy.

Directed by Trump, the Department of Commerce launched an investigation in May 2018 to look into whether imports of vehicles and auto parts threaten to impair U.S. national security, a move based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Since the department submitted the report on Feb. 17, Trump has 90 days to decide whether to take action.

"American auto manufacturers, parts suppliers and retailers, dealers, and vehicle service providers have not asked for and do not need protection," the lawmakers said.

They told Kudlow that the U.S. auto sector employs nearly 4 percent of the country's total private sector workforce and is a key engine that powers the U.S. economy.

"However, if tariffs were to be implemented, new vehicle prices will likely increase, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs," they warned.

The lawmakers also expressed the concern that vehicles outside the scope of the Section 232 investigation will also be subject to tariffs, as parts of passenger vehicles "may overlap with motorcycles, recreational vehicles, construction equipment, heavy-duty trucks, farming equipment, powersports vehicles, and others."

In addition, the tariff measure will result in "inevitable retaliatory tariffs from countries around the world," they said, and such retaliations "will cause further harm to American farmers, manufacturers, and consumers."

"Tariffs on autos will raise prices for American consumers and lower demand, ultimately leading to decreased U.S. production, investment and employment," the lawmakers said, urging the administration to do everything possible to "avoid trade restrictions that would negatively impact the U.S. auto sector and undermine our economic security."

Representing the 7th congressional district of the Alabama, Sewell, together with others, has filed a bipartisan legislation to delay auto tariffs, according to information carried by Sewell's personal website.

The legislation requires that the U.S. International Trade Commission conduct a comprehensive study on the economic importance of automotive manufacturing in the United States before tariffs on automobiles and auto parts could be applied.

The Democratic congresswoman is also the lead sponsor of the bipartisan, bicameral Trade Security Act, which would reform Section 232 to increase Congressional oversight in the Section 232 process and reassign national security threat assessments to the Department of Defense.