Trump says U.S. may launch national security probe of vehicle imports

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he asked his commerce secretary to considering opening an investigation into the effect of vehicle imports on national security, a move that could lead to the imposition of tariffs.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks with auto industry leaders, including General Motors CEO Mary Barra (4th L) and United Auto Workers (UAW) President Dennis Williams (4th R) at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, U.S. on March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

“I instructed Secretary (Wilbur) Ross to consider initiating a Section 232 investigation into imports of automobiles, including trucks, and automotive parts to determine their effects on America’s national security,” Trump said in a statement after meeting with Ross.

“Core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a Nation,” he said.

A Section 232 investigation was invoked to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Susan B. Anthony List 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

An administration official said before the announcement that the expected move was aimed partly at pressuring Canada and Mexico to make concessions in talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement that have languished in part over auto provisions, as well as pressuring Japan and the European Union, which also export large numbers of vehicles to the United States.

“There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers. After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump said in a tweet earlier on Wednesday.

Trump, who has pledged to revive American manufacturing, has launched a series of trade actions, demanding China import more American goods, starting talks to renegotiate NAFTA and imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Reuters confirmed a report by the Wall Street Journal that the administration was considering launching a “Section 232” investigation into auto imports that could see tariffs of up to 25 percent imposed on imports.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by James Oliphant, Makini Brice, David Shepardson and David Lawder in Washington and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney