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Trade war

Toyota slams Trump's move to label auto imports a security threat

Japanese carmaker receives message its investments 'not welcomed'

President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. trade representative to pursue negotiations on national security concerns regarding auto imports.   © AP

NEW YORK -- Toyota Motor on May 17 criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for declaring auto imports a national security threat while announcing a six-month delay to a possible 25% tariff.

"Today's proclamation sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued," Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. said in a statement.

The announcement came hours after Trump signed a proclamation saying that "automobiles and certain automobile parts are being imported ... in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States." But the U.S. will wait 180 days before deciding what to do next, the proclamation said. The tariffs would deal a major blow to the European and Japanese auto industries if implemented.

The U.S. imported more than $191 billion worth of automobiles in 2017, while American-made vehicles account for just 22% of automobiles sold here, the White House said in a fact sheet.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been directed to pursue negotiations with the European Union, Japan and others on auto and parts imports to address national security concerns, the proclamation said.

"United States defense and military superiority depend on the competitiveness of our automobile industry and the research and development that industry generates," the White House said in a statement on the proclamation. Lighthizer will report back to Trump in six months, and the president will determine whether "further action" is needed, it said.

Trump's decision has worried foreign automobile giants like Toyota, which said it has more than 36 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles on the road in the U.S.

"History has shown that limiting import vehicles and parts is counterproductive in creating jobs, stimulating the economy and influencing consumer buying habits," the American unit said. "These artificial limitations would reduce consumer choice and impact all automakers since vehicle parts used in U.S. manufacturing are sourced from around the globe. If import quotas are imposed, the biggest losers will be consumers who will pay more and have fewer vehicle choices."

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