A worker operates a welding machine on an automobile in the Volkswagen AG and Skoda AG welding shop at the Gaz auto plant, operated by Gaz Group, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

U.S. Tariffs Draw New Retaliation Threat, as Russia Joins In

(Bloomberg) -- Russia is the latest country to threaten the U.S. with retaliation for tariffs on metals imports, warning Friday that American cars could soon face higher taxes.

Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said autos from the U.S. could be targeted, just days after saying that the government also is likely to hit American road-building equipment with higher levies. Both moves are in response to new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, important Russian exports.

U.S. trade partners from the European Union to China are imposing new tariffs in retaliation for the moves by the administration of President Donald Trump.

Russia estimated the economic damage from the U.S. moves at $538 million, but the economy ministry said this week that initially not more than $100 million in imports from the U.S. are likely to be hit with higher levies. Final decisions on what tariffs Russia will raise are expected in the near future. Oreshkin said the government isn’t planning to slap higher taxes on U.S. pharmaceuticals, a politically sensitive area.

The U.S. is Russia’s sixth-largest trading partner, according to the ministry, with turnover of $23.1 billion in 2017. Imports from the U.S. totaled $12.5 billion, with aircraft, vehicles and pharmaceuticals among the largest individual components. Imports of cars and other passenger vehicles totaled $837 million last year.

Many of the vehicles imported from the U.S. to Russia aren’t made by American companies, according to data from Autostat provided to the RNS news service. In addition to General Motors Co., producers selling U.S.-made vehicles in Russia include Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., according to Autostat. Most of the models shipped from the U.S. are lower-volume niche ones, according to the report.

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