(Reuters) - A Trump administration investigation of car and truck imports raised the threat on Thursday of renewed conflict over trade policy for an industry that thrives on stability and sent stocks in Asian and European automakers down.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday the investigation was still in its early stages but that other countries’ high, artificial barriers such as tariffs and other interventions have skewed the marketplace.
“Now it’s very difficult to get back to a reciprocal arrangement,” Ross said in an interview on CNBC, a day after announcing the investigation, which could lead to new U.S. tariffs on imported vehicles.
The probe, launched under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, will look at whether vehicle and parts imports are threatening the industry’s health and ability to research and develop advanced technologies, Ross said on Wednesday.
A similar investigation was the prelude to tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed earlier this year.
The probe comes ahead of midterm elections in the United States later this year and is seen as part of President Donald Trump’s “America First” promise to win back manufacturing jobs lost to overseas competitors.
U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said possible auto tariffs are “deeply misguided,” and urged the administration “to remain focused on addressing China’s trade practices.”
Pointing to a mixed bag of effects on U.S. producers after the metals tariffs, analysts were cautious about predicting major gains for U.S. companies and workers