If the United States imposes tariffs on cars, Trump can expect a stronger response from Japan than when the country slapped levies on steel and aluminum shipments, according to Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko.
Japan and the European Union are already coordinating to address US President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies, and they still need to work more closely with regards to the threatened auto tariffs, Seko stated in Tokyo.
“No real effects have emerged from the steel and aluminum tariffs,” he added. “So in part, that’s why we haven’t acted. The case of autos is different. Our response would change.” He then declined to provide specific details on what actions Japan might be taking.
Japan has kept from hitting back at the US over the metals tariffs, which were imposed by the US, its longtime ally, on national security grounds. The European Union and China, however, have imposed tit-for-tat duties on some US goods. The US is now challenging those retaliatory tariffs at the World Trade Organization.
Trump has also tasked the US Commerce Department to probe whether imports of automobiles and parts pose a national security risk.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has attempted to boost Tokyo’s relationship and goodwill with Trump, while striking major trade deals with other countries. Last Tuesday in Tokyo, Abe was with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk for the signing of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.
Both Japan and the European Union have had to respond to the protectionist changes in the US trade policies under Trump. It could be remembered that the US president has pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership during his first week in office. The EU will possibly hatch a plan to Trump to cut tariffs on cars and car parts among all of the major auto exporters, according to the statement of an official who has direct knowledge of the plans.
Seko stated that it is very important for the US to understand the value of multilateral trade agreements, highlighting Japan’s leadership in deals such as the 11-member trans-Pacific agreement that was signed this year and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
“Concluding large free trade deals like RCEP is an important message at a time like this, when protectionist movements are getting extremely strong,” he stated.
Seko admitted that moving forward with the RCEP won’t be a walk in the park. Japan and India both need to discuss market access. In addition, wide gaps remain among Japan, China, and India on trade rules, he stated.
Ultimately, Seko said that was not very pessimistic about reaching a basic agreement by the end of 2018, giving emphasis to the fact that everyone, including India and China, share such goal.