US President Donald Trump has promised European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he will not impose additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being, Juncker was quoted as saying in an interview on Monday.
A confidential US Department of Commerce report sent to Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
“Trump gave me his word that there won’t be any car tariffs for the time being. I view this commitment as something you can rely on,” Juncker told the German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung in an interview.
He did not specify when Trump made the promise.
If Trump imposed tariffs on European cars nonetheless, the EU would react immediately and not feel obliged to stick to its promise to buy more soybeans and liquefied gas from the US, Juncker added.
The contents of the US report are expected to remain classified while Trump considers its recommendations, leaving the industry and major car exporters, such as Germany, Japan and South Korea, in the dark about its consequences.
Auto industry officials said that they expect the report to recommend at least some tariffs so that the US administration can use the findings of the inquiry as leverage during negotiations this year with Japan and the EU.
The EU wanted to improve trade relations with the US, but would react swiftly if Trump decided to hit EU car imports with tariffs, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
“The European Union will stick to its word as long as the US does the same,” he said.
Any US tariffs on European cars would hit Germany’s important automobile industry particularly hard. The US is Germany’s most important single export destination after the bloc of EU countries.
The BDI industry association called on the US administration to provide more clarity and publish the findings of the national security report swiftly.
“The US Department of Commerce should now publish its report on automobile imports quickly, so as not to further increase business uncertainty for companies,” BDI president Dieter Kempf said.
“The import of automobiles is not a threat to US national security, and US President Donald Trump must abide by applicable trade law and he should refrain from imposing any tariffs or quotas,” Kempf said.
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