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Wednesday, 06 February 2019 19:41

Alabama Auto Plants Brace for Tariffs

Written by Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser
Workers assembled vehicles in the weld shop at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, AL, on Jan. 18. Workers assembled vehicles in the weld shop at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, AL, on Jan. 18. Jake Crandall, Montgomery Advertiser


“This would force us to raise prices and cut production,” Hall said at a U.S. Commerce Department hearing. “A lot of Alabamians, my friends and neighbors, could lose their jobs.”


It wasn’t the first warning or the last.


Throughout 2018, business organizations, lawmakers and others warned against enacting auto import tariffs. Most of Alabama’s major auto manufacturers, including Hyundai, joined a lobbying group to try to make their case.


Even Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, warned against the Trump administration’s tariff plan.

“Import tariffs, and any retaliatory tariffs on American-made goods, will harm Alabama, the companies that have invested billions of dollars in our state, and the thousands of households [that] are dependent upon those companies for a good-paying job,” Ivey said in a statement last year. “I strongly oppose any efforts that may harm those companies that employ thousands of Alabamians and contribute billions to our economy.”


In July, Hyundai’s 51,000-member labor union in South Korea released a statement to The Associated Press warning that the Alabama plant may be the first one on the chopping block if tariffs hurt sales. The union said its contracts with the company mandate that it close overseas factories before shutting down any plants in South Korea.


“If South Korean car exports to the U.S. get blocked and hurt sales, the U.S. factory in Alabama that went into operation in May 2005 could be the first one to be shut down…” the union said in the statement.


By December, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones was meeting with Alabama automakers at a roundtable.


“They’re very concerned,” said Jones, a Democrat.


Jones and Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander recently reintroduced legislation that would require the International Trade Commission to study the U.S. auto industry before tariffs could be applied. Its chances to become law weren’t clear. Alabama’s other Senator, Republican Richard Shelby, said he looks forward to “reviewing the Automotive Jobs Act, as well as other similar legislation, should it receive further consideration by the Senate.”

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