Donald Trump threatens 20% tariff on European Union cars, targeting Germany

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The European Union has imposed additional tariffs of 25% on products such as motorcycles, orange juice, bourbon, peanut butter, cigarettes and denim - part of its response to the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum exports from Europe.

The Trump administration is investigating whether imported autos pose a threat to USA national security.

The European Autos Stocks Index fell sharply after Trump's tweet and closed down 0.5 percent. "Convertibles are a particular headache".

Now, around 340 US products are being slapped with tariffs when they enter the EU.

Because of the USA database's limitations, the totals include some foreign-sourced goods that may not be subject to China's tariffs.

Imposing a steep tariff on imported cars could also virtually eliminate low-cost models that American automakers have outsourced to production plants in countries with cheaper labor.

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He has raged in public and private against trade imbalance, particularly with Germany, as it relates to auto imports.

The tariffs and threats have begun to take a toll.

"The tariff discussion highlights why this flexibility is necessary", said Ron Harbour, a manufacturing consultant with Oliver Wyman. A group representing major USA and foreign automakers has said it is "confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk".

The United States in 2017 accounted for about 15% of worldwide Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand sales.

European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom adresses a news conference on the USA tariffs on steel and aluminium in Brussels on June 1.

German automakers face broader threats from Trump's shift away from decades of USA policy supporting open trade.

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It's worthing noting that, before Trump triggered a trade war, USA exports to the European Union faced an average tariff of just 3 percent; America's domestic carmakers were already highly profitable; and most major foreign automakers operate large plants in the United States.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week said the integration of the auto industry in the USA and Canada means he has "a hard time accepting that any leader might do the kind of damage to his own auto industry that would happen if he were to bring in such a tariff on Canadian auto manufacturers", Reuters reported. BMW's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is its largest in the world and exports almost 3 out of 4 SUVs it makes.

Speaking after Trump again raised the prospect of new auto tariffs, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted: "President Trump's agenda is the most pro-business, most pro-international trade, of any President in history". A BMW spokesman said the "continuous addition of new models" to its US factory "speaks to the capabilities and flexibility of the plant".

The tit-for-tat conflict between the United States and China - the world's two largest economies - is poised to escalate from there.

If a manufacturer wants to introduce a new model on an existing production line, "the assembly sequence has to be the same or it can't be done without spending a lot of money and time", said a USA manufacturing consultant, who asked not to be named. They don't take our cars. "You have to completely redo your logistics infrastructure and your supply base".

German-built vehicles exported to the United States fell 10 percent to 494,000 vehicles, while German automakers produced 804,000 vehicles in the United States past year. Bottom line: The mounting trade dispute with Europe may well intensify. Other countries made up the rest, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Initially, the European Union, Canada, and Mexico were given exemptions to these tariffs, but the White House ended those exemptions on May 31.

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"It's really a tangle; it's not a simple question" of cars being made in one place and sold in another, Kasper Peters, communications manager of ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, said Friday in an interview with VOA. Whiskey and tobacco from the USA will also be hit by tariffs of around 25 percent.

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