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US to delay decision on auto tariffs for six months

Pittsburgh — The US will delay imposing tariffs on imports on automobiles and automotive parts for six months while it negotiates trade deals with Japan and the EU, the White House said Friday.

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The negotiation process will be led by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and if agreements are not reached within 180 days, the president will determine whether further action needs to be taken, the White House said.

The US Department of Commerce launched a Section 232 investigation into auto imports in May 2018. Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the executive branch can investigate whether imports of certain goods impair national security.

Commerce, which delivered its report on auto imports to US President Donald Trump on February 17, concluded that imports of automobiles and certain automobile parts threaten to impair US national security. The report found that automotive research and development is critical to US national security, according to a proclamation signed by Trump.

"The United States defense industrial base depends on the American-owned automotive sector for the development of technologies that are essential to maintaining our military superiority," the proclamation states. "...Yet, increases in imports of automobiles and automobile parts, combined with other circumstances, have over the past three decades given foreign-owned producers a competitive advantage over American-owned producers."

According to the White House, American-owned producers' share of the domestic automobile market has has declined from 67% in 1985 to 22% in 2017, representing 10.5 million units produced and sold in the US in 1985, compared with 3.7 million units produced and sold in the US in 2017. During the same time period, the volume automobile of imports nearly doubled, from 4.6 million units to 8.3 million units, the White House said.

-- Justine Coyne, justine.coyne@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Tom Balcerek, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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