U.S. Stresses Plan to Raise Tariffs on Chinese Cars

Posted November 28, 2018 11:28 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration reiterated on Wednesday its intention to raise tariffs on cars made in China, a move aimed at pressuring Beijing into easing trade restrictions on U.S. companies before President Donald Trump’s meeting with President Xi Jinping of China this week.

Robert E. Lighthizer, Trump’s top trade negotiator, said on Wednesday that he would “examine all available tools” to equalize tariffs that China imposed on U.S. cars. He said China’s “aggressive” industrial policies were harming U.S. workers and companies.

Reports have suggested that negotiators were working toward a handshake deal between Trump and Xi when they get together at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina. Such a deal could include suspension of new tariffs next year in exchange for a concrete commitment from Xi to address complaints that his government has made it more expensive for U.S. companies to operate in China.

“We are continuing to raise these issues with China,” Lighthizer said. “As of yet, China has not come to the table with proposals for meaningful reform.”

Earlier on Wednesday, several Democratic senators, alarmed by the possibility that the president was backing down from his tough stance on trade, sent Trump a letter calling for him to shun any deal that would not truly level the playing field between the two countries.

“We have seen disturbing reports that you may be considering backing down on further action against China in order to reach an agreement at the G-20,” wrote Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate minority leader, and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. “We urge you to stand firm against China if meaningful concessions are not made. American jobs, American innovation and long-term American economic prosperity are at stake.”

Trump’s economic team is divided over how to deal with China. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow, the National Economic Council director, have warned the president that increased tariffs could hurt growth and pinch U.S. companies.

Lighthizer, a former trade lawyer who brought cases against China for dumping cheap steel in the U.S. market, has taken a tougher line.

Trump signaled his desire for car tariffs in a tweet earlier on Wednesday, saying tariffs on imported small trucks had benefited that industry in the United States. He suggested that the same would be the case for cars.