Trump Administration Considers Stricter Emission Standards for Imported Cars
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration continues to target the automotive industry—this time it's imported cars. President Trump reportedly wants to require imported automobiles to meet stricter environmental standards than U.S. automakers are subjected to, in order to protect them from competition, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump "will promote free, fair and reciprocal trade practices to grow the U.S. economy and continue to (bring) jobs and manufacturers back to the U.S."
Two U.S. automotive executives said Friday they believed the idea had been floated in White House talks last week by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, but said the auto industry had not asked for the changes or backed them.
A Commerce Department spokesman referred a Reuters request for comment back to the White House, which has not responded.
U.S. automakers have long requested the removal of non-tariff barriers in Japan, South Korea and other markets that they believe unfairly hinder U.S. exports. There are also concerns that any new non-tariff U.S. barriers could violate World Trade Organization rules.
The story was first reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal.
Citing unnamed senior administration and industry officials, the Journal said Trump had asked several agencies to pursue plans to use existing laws to subject foreign-made cars to stiff emission standards.
It appears such non-tariff barriers could have a greater potential effect proportionately on European automakers, which collectively import a greater percentage of cars from plants outside the United States, according to sales figures from Autodata.
In comparison, Japanese and Korean brands made about 70 percent of the vehicles they sold last year in the United States at North American plants. European brands built only 30 percent in North America.
Foreign automakers operate 17 assembly plants in the United States, 12 of which are owned by Asian manufacturers. Virtually all of those are non-union plants, many of them in southern states.
European automaker BMW has a assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina—its biggest factory in the world. Mercedes Benz also has a plant in South Carolina and another one in Alabama. Toyota has plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas. Toyota builds the wildly popular Camry model in the U.S. The Camry was the second best selling car in the U.S. in 2017. The best selling car was the compact Honda Civic.
Imported vehicles accounted for about 21 percent of the 17.2 million sold last year in the United States, according to Autodata.
The White House initiative was still in the planning stage, with officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency working to craft a legal justification for the policy, the paper said.
The EPA and the Commerce Department, which the newspaper said was also involved in the effort, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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