Washington – US President Donald Trump has spent the last week railing against trade policies that allegedly put the US companies at a disadvantage. Though economists, fact-checkers and even members of Trump’s own party have called the president’s international trade analysis into question, inventor and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk appears to partly agree with Trump.
Musk, 46, was a member of Trump’s advisory council before stepping down following the president’s decision in June to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Amidst a series of tweets on Thursday, Musk, apparently frustrated by the Asian nation’s import duties, compared China’s trade policy to “competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.”
Musk made his argument after responding to a Trump tweet demanding that China reduce its trade deficit with the United States. “Do you think the US and China should have equal and fair rules for cars?,” Musk tweeted. “Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints and other factors.” Musk continued to lay out his frustration with the current trade relationship, pointing out a significant disparity in the import duties each country places on the other nation’s cars.
He tweeted, “For example, an American car going to China pays 25 per cent import duty, but a Chinese car coming to the US only pays 2.5 per cent, a tenfold difference” and “I am against import duties in general, but the current rules make things very difficult. It’s like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.”
Musk also noted that US auto companies in China are barred from owning “even 50 per cent of their own factory,” while there are five “100 per cent China-owned EV auto companies in the US” Musk finished his tweets by pointing out that he’d raised his concerns with the Obama administration, but “nothing happened. Hope this does not seem unreasonable,” he tweeted in conclusion. Trump did not immediately respond to Musk’s flurry of tweets.
Talk of tariffs on aluminium and steel has captivated conversation in the nation’s capital ever since Trump tweeted that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” earlier this month. The president said he would introduce tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent aluminium, figures that sent minor shock-waves through the stock market.
Though automakers like General Motors (GM) say the vast majority of the steel they use is domestic in origin, experts warn that tariffs will increase the price of steel and auto parts, as well as the price of cars.
On Thursday, Trump said he intended to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminium, but may exempt imports from Canada. The ultimate decision, he said, will hinge upon negotiations with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).