Four-car pile-up for Trump Administration: auto makers sue over China import tariffs

THE TRUMP Administration is being sued by car makers Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Volvo over government tariffs on imported Chinese components.

Lawsuits naming US trade representative Robert Lighthizer as defendant have been filed in New York’s Court of International Trade over duties on products used by all four manufacturers.

The ongoing trade dispute dates back to Donald Trump’s early days in office. After a tariff tit-for-tat affecting products from steel and peanuts to jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles, a partial deal was worked out earlier this year — but duties remain on some Chinese goods. That includes some vital componentry for the auto trade.

The tariffs are referred to as List 3 and List 4. The former went into effect in 2018, placing 25 percent duties on imported goods worth $200bn. List 4 came into effect last year, and entails a 7.5 percent tariff on imports worth $120bn. The goods affected range from raw materials to electronic components.

Tesla last year requested a waiver on import taxes for computer components and display screens for its Model 3 cars. That request was denied. The company’s new filing calls the levies “arbitrary”, “capricious”, and “an abuse of discretion”. Tesla is seeking cancellation of the duties, as well as a refund for those it has already paid — with interest.

Mercedes branded the dispute an “unprecedented, unbounded, and unlimited trade war” that would affect imports worth more than $500bn.

The tariffs had been introduced in the hope of reducing the US trade deficit with China, which stands at some $28bn.