The Trump administration launched the investigation May 23, 2018, using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — the same statute used to impose tariffs of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminum imports, respectively — to determine whether imports of automobiles and automotive parts are considered injurious to national security.
Once a Section 232 probe is launched, the U.S. secretary of commerce has 270 days to send the president a report with recommendations (if any), after which the president has 90 days to make a decision (in this case making for a May 17 deadline for Trump’s decision).
While Ross did send his report just hours before the deadline Sunday, the report was not made public.
As such, industry groups have made calls for the public release of the report.
The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) in a statement said it was “alarmed and dismayed” that the report was not available to the public.
“It is critical that our industry have the opportunity to review the recommendations and advise the White House on how proposed tariffs, if they are recommended, will put jobs at risk, impact consumers, and trigger a reduction in U.S. investments that could set us back decades,” the association said in a prepared statement. “Secrecy around the report only increases the uncertainty and concern across the industry created by the threat of tariffs. MEMA calls for the immediate and full release of the report.”
MEMA also warned of a compounding negative impact if the tariffs were introduced on top of the existing Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“If these tariffs are imposed, the first impacts will be felt by smaller suppliers,” MEMA said in the release. “Usually North American-based, smaller supplier manufacturers’ two largest costs are raw materials/inputs and salaries. These suppliers are already paying significantly more for their raw materials due to tariffs on steel and aluminum. If Section 232 tariffs are implemented, suppliers will have no choice but to lay off members of their workforce.”
Earlier this week, Reuters reported European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Trump had told him he would not impose tariffs on imported automobiles for the time being.
However, Juncker added that Europe would retaliate if the U.S. went forward with tariffs on imports of automobiles and automotive parts.