U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, along with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, reintroduced the Automotive Jobs Act Jan. 15, which would delay the 25 percent tariff on imported vehicles and auto parts proposed by President Donald Trump, according to a press release from Jones’ office.
In May of 2018, Trump directed the U.S. Department of Commerce to investigate if imported automobiles and parts pose a national security threat to the United States and, subsequently, to levy tariffs.
The investigation is slated to be complete in February, when a recommendation will be presented to the president.
The bipartisan legislation proposed by Jones would require the International Trade Commission (ITC) to conduct a study on the “well-being, health and vitality” of the nation’s automotive industry before tariffs could be implemented.
“Automobile tariffs are nothing but new taxes on American consumers and only serve to threaten an industry that is vital to Alabama’s economy and supports 57,000 good jobs,” Jones said in the press release, noting that he recently met with representatives from Alabama’s four major automakers. “As the son of a steelworker, I know well that there is a need to address the bad actors like China who’ve taken advantage of us on trade, and I share the president’s goal of reviving our domestic manufacturing industry. However, that should be done in a way that doesn’t hurt other major job-creating industries and increase costs for American consumers. By having a deeper look at the state of the auto industry, an ITC study would shed light on the impacts that tariffs would have and would make it undeniably clear to the president that this industry is not a national security threat.”
The legislation would require, among other things, that the ITC assess the number of automobiles assembled in the U.S. and exported to other countries annually; the percentage of component parts of automobiles assembled in the U.S. that are imported; the number of component parts for automobiles not produced in the U.S. that would, if not imported, be unavailable to the U.S.; and the effect an increase in automotive manufacturing would have on U.S. jobs.
The issue of auto tariffs was first raised by Jones and Alexander in a letter sent to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in June 2018.
“Auto manufacturers and suppliers employ nearly 200,000 of our constituents, and that number is growing,” the letter stated. “These are good jobs employing American workers.
“However, as a result of the Department’s investigation, automotive companies are currently facing the threat of direct and retaliatory tariffs, which could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of additional costs. To absorb these costs, automotive companies in our state could be forced to either raise prices or cut costs. Either scenario directly translates into lost jobs for our constituents.”
Under the legislation proposed by Jones and Alexander, the ITC would be required to present its report to Congress and make policy recommendations based on the study---tariffs could not be applied until the final report is delivered.