Saturday evening’s Nikkei front-paged a New York-datelined report claiming that criticism is spreading in Japanese and European industrial circles against President Trump’s proclamation on Friday that imported autos and auto parts pose a threat to the national security of the United States. The paper claimed that although the Trump administration has decided to delay a decision on additional tariffs for up to 180 days, there is still a risk of auto trade friction escalating between the United States and Japan and the EU.
The paper wrote that Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. criticized the proclamation in a statement on Friday by calling it “a major setback for American consumers, workers, and the auto industry.” The statement went on to say, “Today’s proclamation sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued.” Nikkei wrote that it is unusual for Toyota to criticize the U.S. government.
The paper also wrote that the U.S. auto industry has been opposed to additional tariffs out of concern that the cost of procuring parts could rise and trade partners might take retaliatory measures. Nikkei added that although the U.S. auto industry was apparently relieved by the USG’s decision to delay additional tariffs, it remains wary of future developments. According to the paper, the American Automotive Policy Council issued a statement saying that higher auto tariffs could slow the U.S. economy and hamper employment in the United States. The paper quoted Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, as saying that the “spurious claim” that imported autos and auto parts pose a national security threat will create uncertainty for the 9,600 import car dealers in the United States and the 578,000 Americans they employ.
Sunday’s Nikkei, Yomiuri, Asahi, and Sankei ran follow-up stories, with Nikkei speculating that the strong tone of criticism in Toyota’s statement demonstrates the company’s strong sense of crisis. Sankei wrote that U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bradley said in a statement: “The importation of passenger cars and auto parts is not a threat to national security. This is a misuse of the administration’s trade authority.” Yomiuri wrote that Japan and the EU are strongly concerned about the steps to be taken by the United States in the future following President Trump’s announcement on delaying imposing additional tariffs on imported vehicles and parts from these trade partners. Quoting the President as stating in the proclamation, “Domestic conditions of competition must be improved by reducing imports,” the paper interpreted this remark as an expression of willingness to impose import restrictions on autos and auto parts, noting that he instructed the USTR to pursue negotiations with Japan and the EU. The paper wrote that the GOJ has been maintaining the position that it cannot accept quantitative restrictions.
Concerning the U.S.-Japan trade talks, Asahi conjectured that the United States is hoping to reach an agreement on agricultural products swiftly in response to calls from U.S. farmers, speculating, however, that President Trump could still make tough requests of Japan in the future by indicating an intention to impose additional tariffs if the two nations fail to achieve progress in their trade talks.