The announcement Friday said that an investigation by the Department of Commerce had found that imports of automobiles and certain automobile parts threatened to impair the national security of the United States. “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 proclamation said.
But many outside the administration have criticized the linkage of cars with national security, saying that the bulk of American auto imports come from the country’s closest allies. Mexico, Japan, Canada, Germany and South Korea were together responsible for more than 85 percent of American automotive imports in 2018.
“The idea that U.S. automakers are threatened by automotive imports is fundamentally flawed and ill conceived,” said John Bozzella, the president of Global Automakers, which represents foreign car brands. “No automaker or auto parts supplier asked for this ‘protection.’”
Economists and industry analysts have argued that the tariffs would raise the cost of American cars and weigh on the United States economy. The Center for Automotive Research, a research group partly funded by the industry, estimated the measures could increase the price of a new vehicle by $455 to $6,875, depending on the specific policy taken.
At a hearing last July on the tariffs, every witness present, including representatives of foreign governments, car companies, parts makers and dealerships, testified in opposition to the measure. The only exception was the United Automobile Workers union.
Jennifer Kelly, the union’s research director, said that the tariffs could address real problems with American automotive factories moving offshore, but that “rash actions” might also have “unforeseen consequences, including mass layoffs of American workers.”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Europe for flooding the American market with cars while limiting imports of United States vehicles, and has called for revised trade terms that makes the relationship more fair.