U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce this week that he is putting off a decision on whether to impose tariffs on European Union autos for another six months, a person familiar with the decision said.
That would avoid a new bruising dispute with one of the United States’ biggest trading partners, just as Trump is trying to put out another trade fire by striking an initial deal with China. But it would also set the stage for Trump to revisit the controversial trade issue in the throes of next year’s presidential campaign.
In May, Trump said the Commerce Department had determined that imports of autos and auto parts were a threat to national security. He instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate deals with both the EU and Japan to address the impairment and report back to him within 180 days on the progress. That deadline is on Wednesday.
The person with familiar the decision cautioned there is always uncertainty surrounding Trump’s final determination when it comes to trades and tariffs. But barring some unforeseen development, the president is expected to announce another six-month delay, the person said.
Lighthizer did negotiate a trade agreement with Japan that opens that country’s market to more U.S. agricultural exports and strengthens rules for digital trade. Because of that, he told reporters in September that he did not expect Trump to impose duties on Japan’s auto and auto part exports.
However, talks with the EU have not produced a deal, mainly because of the EU’s refusal to put agriculture on the table in the negotiations.
A White House spokesperson declined to say what action Trump could take this week, and Lighthizer’s office did not respond to questions on the issue.
An industry official said businesses have also been led to believe by White House officials that Trump will not impose duties this week, particularly after the Japan deal was reached.
Lighthizer previously negotiated new trade provisions with Mexico and Canada as part of the updated NAFTA agreement that could be approved by Congress in coming months. He also reached a deal with South Korea.
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