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Elon Musk: Dealing with China’s trade policy is ‘like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes’

March 8, 2018 at 4:59 PM

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has spent the last week railing against trade policies that allegedly put U.S. companies at a disadvantage.

Though economists, fact-checkers and even members of Trump’s own party have called the president’s international trade analysis into question, inventor and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk appears to agree (in part) with Trump.

Musk, 46, was a member of Trump’s advisory council before stepping down after the president’s decision in June to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Amid a series of tweets Thursday, Musk — apparently frustrated by China’s import duties — compared dealing with China’s trade policy to “competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.”

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President Trump on March 8 announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. “We want a lot of steel coming in to our country but we want it to be fair,” Trump said. (The Washington Post)

Musk made his argument after responding to a Trump tweet demanding that China reduce its trade deficit with the United States. Within hours, the president signed two proclamations that impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and take effect in 15 days.

Mexico and Canada — among the nation’s biggest trading partners — remain exempt from the tariffs as U.S. officials reassess the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Related: [Trump imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum, but offers relief to allies]

“Do you think the US & China should have equal & fair rules for cars?” Musk tweeted. “Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints & other factors.”

Musk continued to lay out his frustration with the current trade relationship, pointing out a significant disparity in the import duties each country places on the other’s cars.

Musk also noted that U.S. auto companies in China are barred from owning  “even 50% of their own factory,” while there are five “100 percent China-owned EV auto companies in the U.S.”

Musk finished his tweets by saying that he had raised his concerns with the Obama administration, but “nothing happened.”

“Hope this does not seem unreasonable,” he tweeted in conclusion.

Trump did not immediately respond to Musk’s flurry of tweets.

Talk of tariffs on aluminum and steel has captivated conversation in the nation’s capital since Trump tweeted that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” earlier this month. The president said he would introduce tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, figures that sent minor shock waves through the stock market.

Although automakers like General Motors say the vast majority of the steel they use is domestic in origin, experts warn that tariffs will increase the price of steel and auto parts, as well as the price of cars.

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Peter Holley is a technology reporter at The Washington Post. Before joining The Post in 2014, he was a features writer at the Houston Chronicle and a crime reporter at the San Antonio Express-News.

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