Feb 18, 2019

Trump wants to keep car tariffs in his back pocket

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Today is the deadline for the Commerce Department to send the White House its auto tariffs report.

Why it matters: The report will recommend whether Trump should follow through on his threat to use a "national security" law to impose massive tariffs — Trump likes the round number of 25% — on imports of cars and car parts.

  • If Trump follows through on these tariffs, allies will go crazy, especially the Europeans, but also the Japanese and maybe the Koreans. (Canada and Mexico are largely protected by side letters in their new trade deal with the U.S.)
  • U.S. business leaders won't be happy with car tariffs, either, and there will almost certainly be a legal challenge to the notion that automobile imports constitute a national security threat.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's leader of international trade, John Murphy, tweeted this morning: "Reminder: The auto industry is united in opposition. Nearly all economists too. It's a terrible idea."

Behind the scenes: Most of Trump's senior economic advisers — with the notable exception of Peter Navarro — think imposing car tariffs is a terrible idea. But Trump tells everyone who'll listen that the threat of car tariffs is his best source of leverage in negotiations with foreign leaders.

  • Trump says privately he used them against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and he believes that by hanging the threat of car tariffs over the ongoing trade negotiations with the Europeans, the Trump administration will get a better deal.
  • Sources familiar with the White House's auto tariffs strategy tell me they plan to keep the contents of the Commerce report a secret, at least for the time being, as is their prerogative under the law. 

The bottom line: A senior Republican Senate aide familiar with the strategy described it this way: "Mostly that they don't want to make it public so that the president can keep it in his back pocket as a threat (no matter what it says about cars and national security)."

Go deeper: Inside Trump's car obsession

Go deeper

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 37 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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