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GM says new Trump auto tariffs threaten American jobs

General Motors headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit in 2014. The company said Friday that President Trump’s tariffs risked weakening its global competitiveness.  (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

General Motors came out swinging Friday against President Trump’s proposed tariffs on foreign automobiles, saying they risked weakening the company’s global competitiveness and would lead to job cuts at home and abroad.

In comments filed with the Commerce Department, which is evaluating whether auto imports threaten U.S. national security as the president has suggested, GM said the new tariffs would hurt the economy.

Trump’s proposal “risks undermining GM’s competitiveness against foreign auto producers by erecting broad brush trade barriers that increase our global costs” and could invite retaliation by U.S. trading partners, the automaker said.

The company’s blunt statement underscores the increasing frustration among American multinational corporations, which fear that the president’s “America First” trade policy ignores the realities of a global economy.

“The overbroad and steep application of import tariffs on our trading partners risks isolating U.S. businesses like GM from the global market that helps to preserve and grow our strength here at home,” the company said.

Consumers “at some point” will feel the impact of Trump’s tariffs in higher prices for passenger cars and auto parts. The per-vehicle increase of several thousand dollars will hit “customers who can least afford” the higher costs, the company warned.

If the company instead absorbed the tariff, it would reduce hiring, investment and wages, according to the filing. GM has 47 manufacturing sites and 25 service-part facilities in the United States, where it employs about 110,000 people. Since the 2009 depths of the Great Recession, the company has invested more than $22 billion in its American factories, it said.

Instead of additional tariffs, the administration should concentrate on reaching agreements with Mexico and Canada on a modernized North American trade deal, GM said. Those negotiations, which began in August, have stalled.

GM said Trump’s earlier decisions to levy import taxes on steel, aluminum and billions of dollars in Chinese goods also was damaging its prospects. The president’s interest in taxing foreign cars, perhaps as a tool to encourage the European Union or Japan to open their markets further to American exports, sparked quick opposition from prominent Republicans.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, called Trump’s push for auto tariffs “deeply misguided.”

The president, however, has repeatedly complained about the E.U.’s 10 percent tariff on American cars. The United States imposes a 2.5 percent tax on cars imported from Europe and elsewhere.

“They send Mercedes, they send BMWs, they send everything; we tax them practically nothing,” Trump said this week at a rally in South Carolina.

The Commerce Department already has received more than 2,100 comments from businesses, trade groups and individuals in response to the tariffs. Two days of public hearings are scheduled July 19-20, and the president could go ahead with his additional tariffs shortly thereafter.

The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, representing 1,000 vehicle parts-makers, told Commerce it “strongly opposes” Trump’s tariffs. “Counterproductive unilateral actions will place manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to their global counterparts, erode U.S. jobs and growth, and will not protect the national security of the United States,” the industry group said.