President Donald Trump on Friday announced he will delay by six months a decision on imposing steep tariffs on imported autos while the United States pursues talks with key trading partners. "Within 180 days... the Trade Representative shall update me on the outcome of the negotiations," Trump said in a proclamation issued by the White House.
Trump had been facing a Saturday deadline to announce whether to implement 25 per cent punitive duties on autos -- a possibility that has worried the European Union and Japan in particular, as well as Mexico and Canada. While delaying what would be a sizeable escalation in Trump's multi-front trade wars, the decision leaves hanging the threat of tariffs -- a move sure to irritate major trading partners already angered by the imposition of punishing US duties on steel and aluminium.
The EU, Canada and Mexico have already slapped stinging duties on American exports like motorcycles, orange juice, whisky and blue jeans in response. Negotiations expected to resolve the impasse with the EU will now occur with the backdrop of Trump's auto tariffs threat.
In his proclamation on Friday, Trump described the US auto sector as facing decline due to unfair foreign competition. A report by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross concluded that America's shrinking share of the auto market jeopardized its research, development and manufacturing -- all "vital to national security".
(With inputs from agencies.)