June 29, 2018 / 11:32 AM / 18 days ago

UPDATE 1-Japan: import of cars, car parts not a threat to U.S. security

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TOKYO, June 29 (Reuters) - Japan said on Friday that U.S. imports of its automobiles and auto parts are not an impediment to U.S. security and will not become one, and import restrictions would have “devastating effects” on the U.S. and global economies.

The Japanese warning, issued in a statement, echoed the warning of two major auto trade groups on Wednesday, which said imposing tariffs would cost hundreds of thousands of auto jobs and dramatically increase car prices.

The U.S. administration in May launched an investigation into whether imported vehicles pose a national security threat and President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to quickly impose tariffs.

“The trade relationship with Japan, an ally, contributes not only to the economic prosperity of the U.S. but also to its security,” the Japanese government said in a statement, adding that its comments were being submitted to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“The import of automobiles and auto parts from Japan has not by any means been an impediment to the security of the U.S., and will not become one.”

Trump has made the tariffs a key part of his economic message and repeatedly lamented the U.S. auto sector trade deficit, particularly with Germany and Japan.

Some aides have suggested that the effort is a way to try to pressure Canada and Mexico into making more concessions in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A coalition representing major automakers including Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG, and Hyundai Motor Co, said on Wednesday the tariffs would harm automakers and U.S. consumers.

Toyota USA added in a separate statement that even a Toyota Camry built in the United States would face $1,800 in increased costs.

“Japanese auto-related companies have played a vital role in supporting the growth of the U.S. manufacturing base since starting business in the U.S. in the 1980s,” the Japanese government said.

“Any trade restriction measures ... if imposed, could seriously affect more than 1.5 million jobs created by Japanese auto-related companies in the U.S., and, by inflicting costs on the consumers, lead to devastating effects on the U.S. and global economy.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week U.S. investigation would likely be wrapped up by late July or August. The Commerce Department plans to hold two days of public comments in July on its investigation. (Reporting by Elaine Lies Editing by Darren Schuettler, Robert Birsel)

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