U.S. may not need to slap tariffs on European cars, Commerce chief says

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The Trump administration may not need to put tariffs on imported automobiles later this month after holding “good conversations” with automakers in the European Union, Japan and elsewhere, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

In May, the White House agreed to delay new tariffs on imported vehicles and parts for six months as Washington engaged in negotiations with the European Union and Japan. While the U.S. struck a deal with Japan last month that averted the tariffs, the EU has yet to reach an agreement with the Trump administration as the deadline nears.

“Our hope is that the negotiations we’ve been having with individual companies about their capital investment plans will bear enough fruit that it may not be necessary to put the 232 fully into effect, may not even be necessary to put it partly in effect,” Ross told Bloomberg Television on Sunday, referring to the investigation under Section 232 of a 1962 trade law.

“We’ve had very good conversations with our European friends, with our Japanese friends, with our Korean friends, and those are the major auto producing sectors,” Ross said in Bangkok, where he’s attending a regional summit. South Korea was earlier exempted from any future tariffs because it renegotiated the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS, last year.

The EU has maintained that cars made in the 28-country bloc don’t pose a threat to U.S. national security and shouldn’t be targets of American tariffs. In September, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told Bloomberg that she hoped the deadline would be extended.

Washington has already hit the EU with duties on its steel and aluminum exports using the same national-security justification. Talks on a trade deal have stalled in part to the EU’s refusal to include agricultural products.

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