- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2019

The European Union warned Monday it would react swiftly if President Trump hits EU auto imports with tariffs, a day after the president received a Commerce Department report that could trigger tariffs.

“The European Union will stick to its word as long as the U.S. does the same,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters, saying the EU wants improved trade relations with the U.S.

“The European Commission is aware of the conclusion of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce on whether car imports represent a threat to U.S. national security. Where this report translates into actions detrimental to European exports, the European Commission would react in a swift and adequate manner,” he added.

The U.S. auto industry and free-trade groups voiced opposition Monday to Mr. Trump’s potential move to impose 25 percent tariffs on imported autos and parts, saying it could add more than $2,000 to the average sticker price of a car and cost thousands of jobs.

“Making cars pricier when auto loan delinquencies are already surging seems particularly tone deaf to working Americans,” said Nathan Nascimento, executive vice president of Freedom Partners, a group affiliated with billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. “We urge the administration to abandon the auto tariffs, go back to the European Union, and agree to eliminate all car tariffs on U.S.-EU trade.”

He said European cars “are about as dangerous to our national security as Wisconsin cheese is to theirs.”

“Abusing the pretext of national security is all the more reason Congress should vote on any proposed tariffs before they can harm American consumers and producers,” Mr. Nascimento said.

The Commerce Department on Sunday provided the White House with a long-awaited “Section 232” report on whether to impose double-digit tariffs. Mr. Trump now has 90 days to decide whether to take action.

The Center for Automotive Research, an industry group, said in a report that tariffs on autos and auto parts would contribute heavily to a worst-case scenario of 366,900 U.S. jobs lost, an average price increase of $2,750 on light-duty vehicles and a decline of vehicle sales of 1.3 million per year.

In a statement issued Monday, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana said the Commerce Department’s report could “set the stage for costly tariffs on cars and auto parts.”

“President Trump is right to seek a level playing field for American businesses and workers, but the best way to do that is with a scalpel, not an ax,” she said.

The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association criticized the secrecy of the Commerce Department’s report, saying it “only increases the uncertainty and concern across the industry created by the threat of tariffs.”

“It is critical that our industry have the opportunity to review the recommendations and advise the White House on how proposed tariffs, if they are recommended, will put jobs at risk, impact consumers, and trigger a reduction in U.S. investments that could set us back decades,” the group said.

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