Trump officials greet Ford’s plan to import Chinese cars – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s administration greeted news Tuesday that Ford will shift production of its next generation of Focus vehicles to China without any of Trump’s’ earlier threats of huge tariffs against any automaker that moved to import cars into the U.S. from other nations.
“The Ford decision shows how flexible multinational companies are in terms of geography,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in response to Ford’s news. “I believe that as President Trump’s policies and reforms take hold, more companies will begin to locate their facilities in the U.S. as several German and Japanese automakers already have.”
While Ross’ statement carried a note of optimism in his agency’s review of trade with other nations and how to best improve the nation’s $502 billion trade deficit, it lacked any of the bellicose remarks made by then-candidate Trump about what he would do to manufacturers – especially carmakers — who expanded overseas operations.
As Trump announced his long-shot candidacy in 2015, he sharply criticized Ford’s then-proposed new operation in Mexico, maintaining throughout his campaign a promise to punish it or any automaker that moved or increased production outside the U.S. to then import those vehicles back into the country.
At today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted Ross’ comment on Ford’s decision and said the “general consensus” is that tax reform — including a proposed lowering of corporate tax rates — will lead to companies wanting to “bring back, create jobs in the U.S.”
Congress is still waiting for a complete tax reform proposal from the administration. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence both spoke of the need for tax reform today though its chances of being worked out this year are uncertain.
Spicer said tax reform will lead to “more and more companies not only not going to other companies but coming back to the U.S.”
Speaking at a rally in Iowa in August 2015, Trump said, “I would say to the head of Ford, ‘Sorry, I’m not gonna approve. You’re gonna pay a tax for every car and every truck and every part that comes across that southern border, you’re gonna pay a 35% tax, OK?'”
Trump — who has already notified Congress of his intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to retain and create manufacturing jobs in the U.S. — also sharply criticized trade with China during the campaign. He declined to label China a currency manipulator once entering office, however, and has been seen as on good terms with China’s president, Xi Jinping.
Ford, which later cancelled its plans for a new Mexican site but still planned to build on its existing one at Hermosillo, Mexico, announced this morning that it is now instead planning to import the next generation of Ford Focus vehicles from China as a way to improve what it is calling its “operational fitness.” Ford said it was not related to the renegotiation of NAFTA.
Ford also said it would invest $900 million in Louisville’s Kentucky Truck Plant to build a redesigned Ford Expedition and Lincoln Expedition SUV.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said Ford’s announcement underscores the need for smart self-driving car legislation that could lead to investment and production of self-driving cars in Michigan.
“Of course, I always want to see facilities move to the U.S. So, I think with that Ford announcement, they also announced they are making a pretty substantial investment in the Kentucky Truck Plant, so I was pleased by that,” Peters said.
“But I think this is why it’s so important that we are focused on making Michigan the center of the auto industry for advanced technologies related to autonomous vehicles, because wherever this engineering and scientific work is done, it is normally done in close conjunction to where the manufacturing is done,” Peters said.