Trump threatens fresh tariffs in wake of GM plant closures

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Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said that Trump felt betrayed by GM, which the government had been trying to help.

In a tweet Thursday slamming General Motors for plans to lay off workers, Trump wrote that auto companies "are pouring into the U.S." and GM is "very counter" to the rest of the industry.

Rather, the cuts are entirely about General Motors preparing for what industry experts agree will be a hard and challenging future for old-school automakers, and doing so at a time when its balance sheet is relatively healthy and the company has room to manoeuvre, he said. Among those four is a auto factory in northeast OH, a state critical to victory in the 2020 presidential campaign. GM will eliminate roughly 14,000 jobs between five plants in the US and Canada next year.

Senior White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on June 6, 2018.

"They expressed their disappointment over the closures of the GM plants in Canada and the US" and "underscored their concern for the workers, their families and the communities that are affected by this decision", Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad said.

Earlier this week, Trump said he told GM CEO Mary Barra that she should quit making cars in China and open a new plant in OH to replace the one in Lordstown, which is ending production, the Wall Street Journal reported. "We're going to fill up those factories or rip them down and build new ones", he said.

Separately, the Trump administration warned it may raise tariffs on Chinese auto imports. In June he threatened Harley Davidson with higher taxes after the motorcycle maker announced it would move some production overseas. US consumers have responded by purchasing yet more SUVs and trucks, which accounted for about 65 percent of new-vehicle sales in September.

Trump has not followed up on these threats.

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BMW Group Chairman and CEO Harald Krueger on Tuesday told reporters that his company could consider a second plant in the U.S. It now runs an assembly plant in SC, and will officially open a factory in Mexico next year. Questions remain, though, about whether Trump has the authority to act against the automaker without congressional approval.

The EU has already retaliated against the United States earlier this year for the steep tariffs Trump imposed on steel and aluminum, which Brussels says are "deeply unjustified".

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at a briefing, "I don't know that there's a specific timeline" for taking action against GM. "We are going to be looking at certain subsidies regarding electric cars and others and whether they should apply or not".

GM has been lobbying Congress, along with Tesla Inc, to lift the current cap on electric vehicles eligible for tax credits, but any action by Congress before 2019 is a long shot, congressional aides said. The credit begins to phase out after an automaker sells 200,000 eligible vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Bolt electric auto. Tesla hit the cap in July. At a rally near GM's Lordstown plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are "all coming back".

The German automaker said if it goes ahead with plans for a USA engine plant, it is because it needs to supply engines to its North American assembly plants.

Trump has also harshly criticized GM for building cars in China.

Keeping open a plant slated for closure is not without precedent for GM.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Wednesday that he "will examine all available tools to equalize the tariffs applied to automobiles".