Decision Time nears on Auto Tariffs

The Commerce Department is days away from releasing a final report declaring that imported vehicles and auto parts are a threat to national security.

What President Donald Trump does with that report is still a wild card.

The conventional wisdom here has been that Trump will follow through on threats to impose tariffs, possibly up to 25 percent, on auto products purportedly to aid domestic manufacturers, though they haven’t asked for any such help.

But given strong and rising opposition to such a move, and the potential economic damage, it’s more likely the White House will use the specter of tariffs to gain leverage in trade talks with the European Union and Japan, some analysts predict.

“It would be unusual to see a president, in the year before his re-election campaign, take an action as obviously harmful to the economy and consumer pocketbooks,” said Scott Miller, a senior trade adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.