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US should block cheap Chinese auto imports from Mexico, US makers say

Published 02/23/2024, 03:09 PM
Updated 02/24/2024, 12:20 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the urban area of the municipality of Santa Catarina near the land where Tesla has indicated it could build a new gigafactory, in Santa Catarina, on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/Fil
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. government should block the import of low-cost Chinese autos and parts from Mexico, a U.S. manufacturing advocacy group said on Friday, warning they could threaten the viability of American car companies.

"The introduction of cheap Chinese autos - which are so inexpensive because they are backed with the power and funding of the Chinese government - to the American market could end up being an extinction-level event for the U.S. auto sector," the Alliance for American Manufacturing said in a report.

The group argues the United States should work to prevent automobiles and parts manufactured in Mexico by companies headquartered in China from benefiting from a North American free trade agreement. "The commercial backdoor left open to Chinese auto imports should be shut before it causes mass plant closures and job losses in the United States," the report said.

Vehicles and parts produced in Mexico can qualify for preferential treatment under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement as well as qualifying for a $7,500 electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, the report noted.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said in response that China's automobile exports "reflect the high-quality development and strong innovation of China’s manufacturing industry... The leapfrog development of China’s auto industry has provided cost-effective products with high quality to the world."

The issue has received new interest after news reports that China's BYD (SZ:002594) plans to set up an EV factory in Mexico. BYD, known for its cheaper models and a more varied lineup, recently overtook its biggest rival, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), to become the world's top EV maker by sales.

Tesla announced plans almost a year ago to build a factory in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. In October, Mexico said a Chinese Tesla supplier and a Chinese technology company would invest nearly a billion dollars in the state.

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has urged the Biden administration to hike tariffs on Chinese-made vehicles and investigate ways to prevent Chinese companies from exporting to the United States from Mexico.

A group of lawmakers urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to boost the 27.5% tariff on Chinese vehicles and said her office "must also be prepared to address the coming wave of (Chinese) vehicles that will be exported from our other trading partners, such as Mexico, as (Chinese) automakers look to strategically establish operations outside of (China)."

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the urban area of the municipality of Santa Catarina near the land where Tesla has indicated it could build a new gigafactory, in Santa Catarina, on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

Alliance for Automotive Innovation CEO John Bozzella has said that proposed U.S. environmental regulations could let China gain "a stronger foothold in America’s electric vehicle battery supply chain and eventually our automotive market."

The U.S. Treasury issued guidelines in December on the $7,500 EV tax credit aimed at weaning the U.S. EV supply chain away from China.

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