Ross Lauds U.S. Steel Tariffs as He Starts Review of Car Imports

(Bloomberg) -- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have been a boon for U.S. producers, as his agency is considering whether similar measures would boost the nation’s auto manufacturers.

"Steel and aluminum have worked out very, very well. There have been something like 20 facilities either reopening or expanding in steel and aluminum since we put those tariffs in," Ross said in an interview Thursday on CNBC, referring to tariffs. "So that was a very good activity for us and we’re looking forward to researching whether cars should be handled in a similar fashion."

President Donald Trump’s administration said late Wednesday it’s investigating auto imports on national security concerns, drawing sharp responses from major car-exporting allies including Japan, South Korea and Germany. The move also broke a temporary calm between the U.S. and China, which is said to be planning to cut import duties on a range of consumer goods in a bid to open its market to outsiders.

In a tweet, Ross said “the Department of Commerce will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation into whether auto imports are weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security.”

Trump’s latest probe will be conducted under Section 232 of a 1960s trade law, the same tool the president invoked in imposing global tariffs on imported steel and aluminum earlier this year.

"Obviously we don’t have any conclusions yet," Ross said in the interview. "But it is the case that many of the same pundits who criticized the steel and aluminum are now coming forth and criticizing this one. So I don’t find that very surprising."

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