No U.S. auto import quota in works, says Japan's economic revitalization chief Toshimitsu Motegi

JIJI, Kyodo, Bloomberg

There is no need to be worried that the United States will impose a quota on Japanese automobile imports, economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Sunday.

“There is no worry judging from the U.S. announcement,” Motegi said on a television program, noting that such a quota was not specified in the announcement.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump put off a decision on whether to impose additional tariffs on automobile and auto parts imports by up to six months.

Before that, a U.S. media report said Trump is considering an executive order that may include import quotas for Japanese and European automobiles.

“We have told (the United States) that we oppose trade-distorting measures including a quota,” Motegi said, stressing that he has secured the United States’ assurances it will not take such measures.

Asked whether Japan will be able to avoid a U.S. import quota after bilateral negotiations on trade, he told reporters after the TV program that it depends on how the accord is worked out. Motegi represents Japan in the trade talks.

Despite concerns over a downturn in the Japanese economy, Motegi said on the program that he sees no need at present to draw up additional economic stimulus measures in light of the planned consumption tax hike in October.

On Friday, Motegi said that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had confirmed the United States will not push Japan to restrain automobile exports as part of a bilateral trade deal.

Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts. If he follows through, the new duties would significantly impact major car exporters such as Japan and Germany.

Automobiles and auto parts accounted for about 75 percent of the U.S. trade deficit as of 2017.

Toyota Motor Corp. rebuked U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration that imported cars threaten national security, signaling contentious talks are ahead for the White House and America’s key trading partners.

In an unusually strong-worded statement, Japan’s largest automaker said Trump’s proclamation Friday that the U.S. needs to defend itself against foreign cars and components “sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed.” The company said it has spent more than $60 billion building operations in the country, including 10 manufacturing plants.

Trump on Friday agreed with the conclusions of his Commerce Department, which investigated imports of vehicles and auto parts and found they harmed national security by causing a declining market share for “American-owned” carmakers since the 1980s. The White House set a 180-day deadline for negotiating deals with Japan, the European Union and other major auto exporters.

Toyota said it remains hopeful those talks can be resolved quickly, but warned that curbing imports would force U.S. consumers to pay more and would be counterproductive for jobs and the economy. The company’s critique comes two months after its pledge to add $3 billion to a years-long U.S. investment plan.