Abe hits back at Trump’s plan to slap tariffs on ally

By BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (picture) hit back at US President Donald Trump’s push to impose higher tariffs on imported vehicles and metals.

“We can’t accept this,” Abe said in Parliament yesterday in response to a question on the already-in-place metal tariffs and the possible introduction of new levies on cars. “From a security perspective, it’s very difficult to understand why this would be imposed on Japan, a military ally.”

Trump’s order last week to investigate auto imports for potential trade penalties on national security grounds came as a surprise and quickly drew opposition from the industry, Republican lawmakers and foreign nations. The tariffs, which could be as high as 25%, would hurt Japan’s automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp, and damage an economy that shrunk in the first quarter for the first time in two years.

Abe’s pointed comments add to opposition from other US allies such as the European Union, whose trade chief will speak to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross late yesterday in an attempt to secure a permanent exemption from the metals tariffs. The US-China trade dispute has also come back to the boil, with Trump moving ahead with plans to impose tariffs on US$50 billion (RM200 billion) of Chinese imports. Ross is scheduled to travel to China this weekend to discuss trade.

“We’d consider going to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)” if the US took steps to reduce imports, Abe said. In fact, Japan has already told the WTO that it may impose at least US$264 million worth of tariffs on US goods in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.