Japan trade minister warns of possible retaliation against Trump's auto tariffs

Japan trade minister warns of possible retaliation against Trump's auto tariffs
© Getty Images

Japan's trade minister said Tokyo might retaliate if President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE decides to follow through with threats to impose hefty tariffs on imports of foreign cars.

Hiroshige Seko, the minister of economy, trade and industry, didn't say how Japan may respond  but didn't rule out tariffs on U.S. goods.


”Japanese automakers are a major contributor to the American economy,” Seko said in an interview with the Associated Press at his ministry office in Tokyo.

Seko said that Trump's tariff's policies reflect a serious misunderstanding about the global importance of free trade and how Japanese companies have contributed to the U.S. economy.

A weakened Japanese auto industry would greatly hamper investment into the United States, he said.

”This works as absolutely no plus for the world economy, and Japanese companies are shipping parts to China to finish them as products there that are exported to the U.S., and the effects are already being felt,” he said.

“Ultimately, it will hurt the U.S. and Chinese economies.”

Trump is threatening to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imports of autos from Europe and other nations such as Japan. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCommerce Department unit gathered intel on employees, census critics: report Former Trump officials find tough job market On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE said earlier this week that a report on the issue will likely be delayed as trade talks kick off soon with the European Union.

Japanese automakers have had a strong manufacturing presence in the United States for decades and employ thousands of U.S. workers. 

Seko said he understands Trump's concerns about the growing U.S. trade deficit. But at the same time Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Japanese officials have been patiently trying to persuade Trump that Japanese products don't pose a national security threat to the United States.

But he said that Trump can't blame Japan, which has over several decades invested in auto plants and other businesses in the United States, creating jobs here and bolstering the economy. 

The annual U.S. trade deficit with Japan totaled more than $68 billion last year. The U.S. deficit with China was nearly $376 billion.

Trump and Abe are expected to meet in New York next month during United Nations General Assembly meeting, which begins Sept. 18.

Trump has slapped tariffs of 25 percent on steel and and 10 percent on aluminum imports in the spring over concerns that those products were causing security issues. 

Japan imports very little steel and aluminum into the United States and are expected to have little effect on the country, Seko said.