Trump administration withholds report justifying ‘shock’ auto tariffs



Eliana Johnson and Andrew Restuccia | Politico

A confidential government report has provided President Donald Trump with a legal rationale to impose heavy new tariffs on foreign cars as soon as this spring, a prospect fiercely opposed by White House officials and congressional Republicans alarmed by its enormous economic and political stakes.

The Commerce Department submitted the report to the White House in mid-February, triggering a 90-day period for Trump to decide whether to impose tariffs, which could reach as high as 25 percent, on imported autos. It concluded that Trump could justify the tariffs on national security grounds and offered a range of options in response — putting the decision in the president’s hands, four people familiar with its conclusions told POLITICO.

Although the existence of the report was previously known, the administration has kept its findings hidden — including from a powerful Republican senator who has demanded to see it — and its conclusion had not been previously reported.

Trump has not yet made a decision, but he has long complained that the U.S is exploited economically by its allies and has repeatedly told aides he wants to impose a “ring tax” around U.S. borders to protect the country from foreign imports. Trump also has a particular interest in foreign auto competition: In a 2017 interview with the German newspaper Bild, he complained that Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue was filled with Mercedes-Benzes, adding: “It’s not mutual. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany?”

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