Trump orders “national security” probe into auto industry – world socialist web site electricity questions and answers physics


Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said: “There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry. The Department of Commerce will conduct a thorough, fair and transparent investigation into whether such imports are weakening our internal economy and may impair our national security.”

A Commerce Department statement said automobile production had long been a source of American technological innovation. The investigation, it declared, would consider whether the decline of domestic production threatened to weaken the economy by reducing the development of autonomous vehicles, fuel cells, electric motors, advanced manufacturing process and other cutting-edge technologies.

“Is [the issue] Nissan versus Jaguar versus GM? No. It’s having the ability to have the supply chains here, if, God forbid, you get into a conflict and don’t have the supply chains we need. Every war we’ve fought since World War II has been a conventional war. And in a conventional war, the strongest economy wins.”

The tariff measures, if implemented following the investigation, will directly hit key nominal strategic allies of the United States, including Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea and, above all, Germany, which sell the bulk of cars imported into America.

The US imported 8.27 million cars and light trucks last year, worth $192 billion. More than half came from plants in Mexico and Canada, which are currently involved in renegotiating the North America Free Trade Agreement with the Trump administration. The latest measures are a means of applying increased pressure to secure greater concessions.

“If they [the US] were to go ahead with such wide-ranging trade restrictions, it would throw the global market into confusion,” Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry said. “There could be a negative effect on the WTO [World Trade Organisation] multilateral trading system. It is extremely regrettable.”

“The section 232 investigation is intended to cover threats to national security,” the transnational stated. “Given the global nature of the automobile industry, and the fact that last year nearly 12 million vehicles were manufactured in the US, such a determination seems implausible.”

“We believe that there is no justification for the US to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium on grounds of national security,” a European Commission spokesman said. “Invoking national security would be even more far-fetched in the case of the car industry.”

China added its voice to the condemnation of the US moves. A commerce ministry spokesman said that Beijing opposed the “abuse of national security clauses, which will seriously damage multilateral trade systems and disrupt the normal international trade order.”

The investigation has sparked opposition in the US. Rufus Yerxa, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a trade policy group representing US companies, said he feared the administration had “crossed the Rubicon into wholesale protectionism.”

“Lots of countries have resorted to protectionism when their economies were doing badly. It almost never works. But Trump may be the first leader ever to do it when the economy is booming. He’s trying to fix a problem that ain’t broke. The auto industry is healthy.”

Such opposition is grounded on the premise that, because Trump’s measures are so disruptive to global economic relations, an appeal to rationality can bring about, if not a reversal, then at least a course correction within the prevailing system.

Such a view ignores the transformation in US policy-making, of which the Trump administration is the expression. In a trend that began before the present administration came to office, the US increasingly regards the present global order as inimical to its interests. It views economic relations as a test of strength with its rivals, in which military capacity, be it in the area of manufacturing or technology, assumes ever-greater importance.