China and the US have been locked in a bitter battle of ever-rising tariffs as the two countries attempt to figure out a new trade deal. In a bit of good news, a new presidential tweet suggests that at least one facet of the trade war might be approaching an armistice.
In a tweet Sunday night, US President Donald Trump said China has "agreed" to reduce and eventually eliminate its 40-percent tariff on US-made vehicles. According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, it's the highest auto tariff China applies to any partner -- most are around 15 percent. The US has its own import tariff on Chinese-made cars, totaling 27.5 percent.
Without any follow-up information in the tweet, it's unclear when these reductions will take place, and it's also unclear how much the tariffs will fall. The Office of the US Trade Representative did not immediately return a request for comment, neither did representatives for China's commerce ministry.
Before this tweet came out, the US government sounded like it was ready to raise tariffs further. Robert Lighthizer, the US Trade Representative, put out a statement last week that said he would "examine all available tools to equalize the tariffs applied to automobiles," hinting that the US could try to raise its 27.5-percent auto import tariff to meet the 40-percent level that China levied against US-made cars.
This fledgling trade war has already made waves in the auto industry. Ford canceled the Chinese-made Focus Active's US introduction in August, shortly before CEO Jim Hackett said that steel and aluminum tariffs have allegedly cost Ford $1 billion in profits. Over at BMW, the company is figuring out whether to shift some production outside the US to beat the tariffs, which could affect investments and jobs at its US plant in South Carolina.
It keeps going. Volvo announced plans to shift some of its production to prevent losing the house on US-made S60 sedans destined for China. It will also begin relying more on European imports of the XC60 SUV to avoid the 27.5-percent US import tariff. Tesla's sales in China were reportedly down some 70 percent in October, as well, although factors outside the tariffs likely contributed here, too.
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