President Donald Trump stood by his threats to levy sweeping tariffs on automobile imports as a way to extract concessions from trading partners, despite opposition from the industry and discontent in Congress with the White House’s proposal.
Resistance to the tariffs is strong and growing. A coalition of foreign and domestic auto companies, along with auto dealers and auto-parts makers, released a letter on Wednesday urging Mr. Trump to refrain from the tariffs.
A bipartisan group of 149 House members also urged the president not to move forward with the tariffs. Auto unions were among the few industry players offering qualified support for the tariffs.
Still, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Trump threatened “tremendous retribution” against the European Union, specifically mentioning auto tariffs, if his meeting with EU officials next week doesn’t yield what he considers a fair auto trade deal.
Mr. Trump is seeking to refocus attention on his trade agenda, while his administration at the same time is contending with criticism over his comments this week on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The issue of auto tariffs is the subject of a Commerce Department hearing on Thursday and is expected to be high on the agenda of the July 25 White House visit by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Mr. Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly threatened tariffs on imported autos and auto parts if European leaders don’t make trade concessions. The threat also hangs over negotiations with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement.