Trump's `Dangerous' Auto Tariff Tactic Needs to End, Corker Says

(Bloomberg) -- Republican Senator Bob Corker said President Donald Trump’s administration “is using trade policy maybe too transactionally” in a way that runs counter to U.S. interests.

The remarks by Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, come as Trump threatens to impose sweeping new tariffs on imported automobiles, using a so-called Section 232 national security investigation by the Commerce Department into imports of cars, trucks and vehicle parts that could disrupt relations with key allies including Germany, Canada, Mexico and Japan.

The use of the national security powers for auto tariffs seems “to me is an abuse of the authority granted to the president,” Corker said during a hearing Thursday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “It feels more like it has to do with domestic politics or some other issue and I hope that will be abandoned quick. I think that’s dangerous and destabilizing and should end immediately.”

More broadly, Corker said, “inconsistencies” in U.S. trade policy “are creating problems for our nation.”

The Commerce Department said it will publish a notice soon announcing a hearing date and inviting comment from businesses and the public. The process could last weeks or months before it would present its recommendation to the president, who gets the final say. The administration went through a similar process before imposing tariffs on imported steel an aluminum earlier this year.

The metals levies and some of Trump’s other trade moves have stoked protests from traditional U.S. allies. This week he backed away from a trade arrangement the administration just announced with Beijing, soon after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared a trade war with China “on hold.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.