Will Auto Trade Be a Casualty of US-Japan Trade Talks?


2019/05/06 21:30

President Trump’s objectives in launching bilateral trade talks with Japan in late April are clear. He wants to boost US agricultural exports to Japan and reduce US auto imports. The agricultural demands are understandable, since farm states missed out on access to the Japanese market negotiated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[1] But restrictions on Japanese auto exports have no justification and are likely to backfire to the detriment of Japanese producers, US consumers (who would be hit by rising auto costs), and Japanese investment and employment opportunities in the United States.


To compel Japan’s acquiescence to US demands, Trump has threatened Section 232 national security tariffs or quotas on US auto imports from all sources, including Japan. On February 17, 2019, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave the president a still secret report that lays out the case, probably in terms akin to the Section 232 steel and aluminum reports Ross delivered on January 11 and 17, 2018, respectively. Trump may keep the auto report in his back pocket while US-Japan talks move forward but continue to threaten 25 percent auto tariffs, as he has done in the past.

为了迫使日本默许美国的要求,特朗普已经威胁要对来自包括日本在内的所有来源的美国汽车进口产品征收232条国家安全关税或配额。 2019年2月17日,商务部长威尔伯·罗斯(Wilbur Ross)向总统提交了一份秘密报告,该报告列出了案件,可能与罗斯分别于2018年1月11日和17日分发的第232条钢铁和铝报告相似。特朗普可能将汽车报告放在后面的口袋中,而美日谈判向前推进,但继续威胁25%的汽车关税,正如他过去所做的那样。

Auto products play an outsized role in US-Japan bilateral merchandise trade (table 1). Thanks to its prowess in engineering and factory management, Japan has acquired a strong comparative advantage in the auto sector. Imports from Japan ensure a highly competitive US market, to the advantage of US households. But imports also make Japan a prime target of Trump’s misguided campaign to curtail US trade deficits through tariffs and quotas.


Table 1 Autos dominate US-Japan merchandise trade


(2018, billions of dollars) US exports to Japan US imports from Japan Trade balance Total 75.0 142.6 -67.6 Agriculture 12.6 0.6 12.0 Autos and parts 2.5 56.5 -54.0 Other 59.8 85.5 -25.6 Note: Agriculture data are based on using Harmonized System (HS) codes 01–20; autos and parts data are based on FT900 Exhibit 18.

(2018年,数十亿美元)美国对日出口美国从日本进口贸易余额总计75.0 142.6 -67.6农业12.6 0.6 12.0汽车及零件2.5 56.5 -54.0其他59.8 85.5 -25.6注:农业数据基于使用协调制度(HS) )代码01-20;汽车和零件数据基于FT900图表18。

Source: US Census Bureau.


Following Mexico and Canada, Japan was the third largest exporter of autos and parts to the United States in 2018. And Japan was the leading exporter of passenger cars, accounting for 23 percent ($40 billion) of total US passenger car imports in 2018 ($173 billion). However, US imports of auto products from Japan have barely increased in nominal terms since 2000 (figure 1), in part because Japanese firms have invested substantially in the US auto sector over the last 20 years. Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in the United States increased seven-fold from $6.2 billion in 1990 to $42.1 billion in 2017, spurring US production and employment. Automotive production of Japanese firms in the United States more than doubled since 1990 to 3.8 million units in 2017. For example, Toyota produces 70 percent of US demand for its autos in US plants.[2] According to Prusa (2018), Japanese brand auto companies directly employed 92,710 US workers in 2017, almost 30 percent higher than in 2011.


Restrictions on Japanese auto and parts imports would not only interrupt trade but also cast a cloud over Japanese investment and production in the United States. It takes almost five years and several billion dollars to establish a new auto plant. Firms need a degree of certainty about federal and state policies before making that commitment. An industrial policy of managed trade, subject to unpredictable interference from Washington, does not spell business certainty. Yet talks seem pointed in that direction, if the present administration has its way.


The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement allows for future auto quotas—which may extend to Japan

美国 - 墨西哥 - 加拿大协议允许未来的汽车配额 - 可能延伸到日本

The current state of North American auto trade indicates the possible contours of a US-Japan agreement. Under a side letter to the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), if auto restrictions on national security grounds are eventually imposed, some 2.6 million passenger car imports each from Canada and Mexico would be exempt. Imports above those levels would be subject to whatever tariffs or quotas Washington might decide. In addition, Canada and Mexico would be subject to annual auto parts quotas of $32.4 billion and $108 billion respectively. The contemplated auto and parts quotas are substantially higher than current import levels (table 2). This precedent, if extended to Japan, might cause free trade observers to relax, but that would be short-sighted. Once the principle of managed trade is established, the actual restrictions become only a matter of terms that could easily change from time to time. President Trump or his successor could wake up one morning, decide that quotas should bite, and reopen talks with Canada, Mexico, Japan, Europe, and other suppliers. Moreover, the USMCA sets a 75 percent rule of origin on auto trade with Canada and Mexico (up from 62.5 percent in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the predecessor to the USMCA). Japan can expect the United States to demand a similar or more stringent figure.

目前的北美汽车贸易状况表明了美日协议的可能轮廓。根据美国 - 墨西哥 - 加拿大协议(USMCA)的一封附信,如果最终实施基于国家安全理由的汽车限制,则每个来自加拿大和墨西哥的260万辆轿车将免税。高于这些水平的进口将取决于华盛顿可能决定的任何关税或配额。此外,加拿大和墨西哥的年度汽车零部件配额分别为324亿美元和1,080亿美元。预期的汽车和零件配额显着高于当前的进口水平(表2)。这一先例,如果扩展到日本,可能会导致自由贸易观察员放松,但那将是短视的。一旦建立了管理贸易原则,实际限制只会成为一个很容易随时改变的术语问题。特朗普总统或其继任者可能会在一天早上醒来,决定配额应该咬人,并重新与加拿大,墨西哥,日本,欧洲和其他供应商进行谈判。此外,USMCA对加拿大和墨西哥的汽车贸易设定了75%的原产地规则(北美自由贸易协定的62.5%,USMCA的前身)。日本可以指望美国要求类似或更严格的数字。

Table 2 US auto and parts imports subject to USMCA quota Passenger vehicles


(million of units) Auto parts


(billion of dollars) USMCA quota US imports in 2018 USMCA quota US imports in 2018 Canada 2.6 1.7 32 17 Mexico 2.6 2.0 108 60 Japan n.a. 1.7 n.a. 15 World n.a. 7.9 n.a. 158 n.a. = not applicable Note: The number of imported passenger vehicles is based on using Harmonized System (HS) code 8703. Sources: US-Mexico-Canada Agreement Side Letter on 232, Trademap.org, and US Census Bureau FT900 Exhibit 18.

(十亿美元)USMCA配额2018年美国进口USMCA配额2018年美国进口加拿大2.6 1.7 32 17墨西哥2.6 2.0 108 60日本na 1.7 na 15世界na 7.9 na 158 na =不适用注:进口乘用车的数量是基于使用协调系统(HS)代码8703.资料来源:美国 - 墨西哥 - 加拿大协议附函232,Trademap.org和美国人口普查局FT900图表18。

Japan is no stranger to US restrictions on auto imports. During the Reagan administration, Japan acquiesced to a voluntary export restraint in May 1981, with a ceiling of 1.68 million units; the restraint was finally lifted in 1994. The induced increase in the price of imported autos was an estimated 11 percent on average over the period 1981 to 1984, inflicting a cost to US consumers of $5.8 billion in 1984.[3] Similar effects could be in store for American households buying autos in the 2020s. The enduring quality of trade restrictions on vehicles, once put in effect, is exemplified by the “chicken war” tariff of 25 percent on trucks (including pickups) imposed in 1964 and still in effect more than 60 years later.

日本对美国对汽车进口的限制并不陌生。在里根政府执政期间,日本于1981年5月默许自愿出口限制,最高限额为168万单位; 1994年最终解除了限制。在1981年至1984年期间,进口汽车价格的诱导性增长估计平均为11%,导致1984年美国消费者的成本为58亿美元。[3]对于在20世纪20年代购买汽车的美国家庭来说,类似的影响也可能存在。一旦实施,对车辆的贸易限制的持久质量,例如1964年实施的卡车(包括皮卡)的“鸡战”关税为25%,并且在60多年后仍然有效。

The United States should prioritize frontier trade issues, like services and digital flows, not trade deficits


Advanced economies like the United States and Japan should not be restricting autos or other merchandise flows in their trade agreements. Instead, they should prioritize frontier issues concerning cross-border digital flows, nontariff barriers to services trade, and intellectual property protection, as recommended by the McKinsey Global Institute. Unfortunately, owing to US insistence, talks between US Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and Japan’s Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi might be stuck in the past. Restrictive demands on auto trade would be bad for Japan and bad for the United States. It makes no sense for advanced economies to fixate on merchandise trade balances. Minister Motegi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should vigorously oppose auto tariffs and quotas.

像美国和日本这样的先进经济体不应该限制其贸易协定中的汽车或其他商品流量。相反,他们应该按照麦肯锡全球研究所的建议,优先考虑有关跨境数字流量,非关键服务贸易障碍和知识产权保护的前沿问题。不幸的是,由于美国的坚持,美国大使罗伯特·莱因希泽与日本经济和财政政策部长Toshimitsu Motegi之间的会谈可能会被困在过去。对汽车贸易的限制性要求对日本不利,对美国则不利。发达经济体关注商品贸易余额是没有意义的。茂木部长和首相安倍晋三应该大力反对汽车关税和配额。

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