October 5, 2018 / 8:33 PM / 2 months ago

Exclusive: Commerce head Ross wants Japan to shift more auto production to U.S.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross poses near rocket models during an interview with Reuters in his office at the U.S. Department of Commerce building in Washington, U.S., October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday that Japan should take additional steps to reduce its more than $40 billion automotive trade surplus with the United States while the Commerce Department revisits its ongoing review of whether imported vehicles and parts pose a national security risk.

Ross said in an interview that the “best way” to address the Japanese auto trade surplus “is to move manufacturing into the U.S.” He declined to say if the United States would seek a voluntary automotive export cap from Japan in trade talks.

“The methodology that we’ll use will be determined by the negotiations. There are plenty of ways you can solve things,” Ross said. “We want more production of everything in the United States. That’s our theme song with everybody.”

President Donald Trump said in a speech on Thursday that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told him recently that Japanese automakers are boosting investment in the United States.

Ross said he believed some foreign automakers will open U.S. facilities to meet the increased requirements under the recent trade deal with Canada and Mexico for regional vehicle content and for vehicle value built in higher wage regions. He said that some Asian automakers would have “a little difficulty complying” with the new trade pact unless they add U.S. production.

Ross said the Commerce Department is currently “adjusting our research” into its Section 232 national security automotive investigation “to reflect the deal” with Mexico and Canada. He did not offer a timetable for when the probe will be completed, saying that it would be up to Trump.

General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Toyota Motor Corp and other automakers have warned that the tariffs could cost jobs and raise vehicle prices.

Automakers have said privately they do not expect any announcement before next month’s mid-term U.S. congressional elections.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler

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