Foreign Policy

Trump’s Car Tariffs Are Back On The Table

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Trump and his cabinet lackeys have not publicly threatened to impose tariffs on foreign cars and car parts for some time, but they've reportedly used the threat of those tariffs to blackmail our allies in Trump's rhetorical and perhaps literal war with Iran.

Trump's order to assassinate Iranian General Qassem Suleimani prompted the nation to announce that they would no longer adhere to the restrictions of the Obama-era nuclear peace deal -- a deal that only European nations were still a party to after Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from it -- and that decision could trigger sanctions from European nations if Trump has any say in the matter.

I would say it's quite a stretch to blame Iran for their decision considering Trump's behavior, but the Trump regime evidently has their own doubts about the world's commitment to punishing Iran for it.

The Washington Post reported that Trump is threatening to impose tariffs on European cars and car parts if they don't sanction Iran.

A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries.

If they refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles, the Trump officials warned, according to European officials familiar with the conversations.

Within days, the three countries would formally accuse Iran of violating the deal, triggering a recourse provision that could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran and unravel the last remaining vestiges of the Obama-era agreement.

The U.S. effort to coerce European foreign policy through tariffs, a move one European official equated to “extortion,” represents a new level of hardball tactics with the United States’ oldest allies, underscoring the extraordinary tumult in the transatlantic relationship.

As far as I can tell, the Trump regime is not even pretending to have a legal justification or some specific statute that would enable them to impose tariffs for this reason, but they have threatened to impose these tariffs for a different reason.

You may recall that Trump regime officials have claimed that the World Trade Organization's (WTO) ruling against European subsidies for Airbus would allow them to impose tariffs on European cars. That's also a dubious legal stretch, but I wouldn't put it past them to use that as a vehicle for imposing tariffs even if the real motive for imposing tariffs is something else; something like Iran breaching the nuclear deal that Trump broke away from first.

I get the impression that Trump desperately wants to impose more tariffs on Europe this year for whatever reason his cabinet can come up with and I'll eat my hat if he doesn't.

  • I understand the lock that Trump has on Republicans, including Republican Senators, but many of them have foreign policy expertise going back decades. How they can stand for him pooping in their cornflakes is just beyond me.

  • muselet

    It sure is a good thing the US is respected by the rest of the world, because otherwise this sort of juvenile bullying wouldn’t go over well with our allies.

    Oh, wait.

    Cleaning up after Donald Trump will be a decades-long task.