According to Press TV, the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday he initiated the so-called Section 232 investigation on auto trade after talks with President Donald Trump.
The investigation provides the Trump administration with the legal basis to impose tariffs, if the Commerce Department finds imports threaten US national security.
“There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry. …The Department of Commerce will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation into whether such imports are weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security,” Ross said.
In a statement, Trump said he had “instructed” Ross to “consider” starting the investigation.
“Core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a Nation,” Trump said.
Earlier, the Trump administration used the same reasoning to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum, raising the specter of a trade war.
Now the move in the auto industry is expected to open yet another front in Trump’s confrontational rows over trade that have drawn global outcry from allies and partners.
This comes as talks between the US and Canada and Mexico over revamping the continent-wide North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have stopped over disputes over auto demands.
Trump blames Canada and Mexico for being “difficult” in talks to renegotiate the pact.