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US Commerce chief sends report to Trump on auto imports: reports

The US Commerce chief has submitted a report to US President Donald Trump on the topic of imported cars, news reports said Monday, as South Korea renews efforts to win exemption for its cars from possible tariffs.

The Commerce Department did not make public any details on its recommendations to Trump.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross presented his recommendations to Trump, Bloomberg news reported, citing the department's statement.


Reuters news agency carried a similar story, while the French news agency AFP said, citing unidentified people, the Commerce Department concluded that auto imports pose a threat to US national security.

Trump has 90 days to decide whether to impose tariffs on imported autos on national security grounds based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.

South Korean officials said it's difficult to know details about the report until the US releases it. They said Trump has shown a degree of unpredictability with his negotiation style and rhetoric.

Policymakers here plan to strengthen diplomatic efforts to ensure locally made cars are excluded from stiff import duties.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said its senior officials will meet with auto industry representatives Tuesday to discuss how to win an exemption for South Korean cars from possible tariffs.

Seoul has stressed that as a close ally of the US, it does not pose a threat to US security. It pointed out that South Korea made concessions on automobiles in the revised free trade agreement with the US Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong has made the case for the exemption of South Korean autos from possible US tariffs during his recent meetings with US officials and lawmakers, including National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Kim has sounded a cautious note of optimism on possible exemption of South Korean cars.

In a letter sent Monday to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, the Federation of Korean Industries asked for assistance from the US Congress in terms of tariffs on imports of Korean automobiles and automobile parts.

"Korea should be excluded (from import tariffs). As a steadfast ally of the US, Korea poses zero threats to US national security," the South Korean business lobby said in the letter.

Under the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, recently introduced to both the House and the Senate, Congress must approve the resolution of any proposed Section 232 actions. 

The Korean business community looks forward to the strong leadership of the US Congress on this bill for free trade, it said.

Still, it remains unclear whether Trump will impose tariffs on imported autos.

The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, which speaks for auto parts suppliers, warned earlier this month that tariffs would weaken the US economy by harming US manufacturers of vehicles and vehicle parts and would deter US investments in new innovative technologies.

"These tariffs, if imposed, would adversely impact the success and growth of American manufacturing businesses by placing manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to their global counterparts and eroding US jobs," the association said in a statement posted on its website on Feb. 7.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based nonprofit research institution, warned last year that 195,000 U.S workers could lose their jobs over a 1- to 3-year period, or possibly longer, if Trump slaps tariffs on all imports of automobiles and auto parts. (Yonhap)

Korea Herald daum