WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday said he would delay a decision on whether to impose tariffs on automobiles imported from Europe, Japan and other countries for six months, setting a tight deadline for the United States to reach trade agreements that have so far proved elusive.
Mr. Trump determined that imports of foreign cars and car parts were causing harm to the American automobile industry and threatening national security and said other countries had 180 days to address the problem through trade agreements with the United States.
If agreements “to address the national security threat” are not reached, Mr. Trump said he would determine “whether and what further action needs to be taken,” a step that could include imposing 25 percent tariffs on foreign cars.
The decision offers a temporary reprieve to global automakers and auto suppliers, which had been bracing for punishing tariffs on the more than 8 million cars imported into the United States each year. But it sets up a tense six-month period for the White House to reach trade deals with other nations that have already been complicated by mistrust and disagreements.
The United States has struggled to make headway in preliminary negotiations with the European Union, which has balked at Mr. Trump’s demands to allow more agricultural products like chicken and cheese into Europe. Mr. Trump previously rejected a more straightforward proposal from Europe to simply scrap automotive tariffs on both sides of the Atlantic. And talks with Japan have yet to move beyond the initial stages.
A decision to impose auto tariffs would have been Mr. Trump’s most aggressive trade measure yet. His administration has already imposed stiff levies on steel and aluminum and $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. But a tariff on cars and car parts was seen as an economically damaging escalation in the president’s quest to revise trade terms to benefit the United States.
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