Ferguson meets with automakers about tariffs

Published 6:23 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Congressman Drew Ferguson met with automakers from across the country to discuss the potential impact of Section 232 Auto Import Tariffs on their businesses.

The United States Department of Commerce began its open hearing on Section 232 on Friday to determine whether imports of vehicles and parts pose a threat to national security. President Donald Trump first proposed new tariffs on automobile imports to the U.S., along with steel and aluminum tariffs, back in March. The decision has been hotly debated both in Washington and throughout the U.S. due to concerns over how tariffs could impact companies within the U.S.

“Right now, we are very focused on international trade and making sure that U.S. workers have the best opportunities that they possibly can,” Ferguson said in an interview with the Daily News. “[We are] making sure that American businesses and products that are made right here in the U.S. have access to markets all around the world, looking for increased trade opportunities, and we are supportive of those measures.”

Ferguson acknowledged that finding the right balance for local manufacturers will take work.

“We recognize that there are certainly some challenges in the marketplace right now to get the environment to the point where Kia and the supplier base are running at full capacity,” Ferguson said.

“Part of that is growing the U.S. economy. We’ve done incredible work with tax reform, the regulatory environment and education, so we are doing the things to jumpstart our economy. We want to make sure the U.S. economy is growing as fast as it can in a very sustainable way.”

The way Section 232 Auto Import Tariffs are applied will likely have a major impact on companies like Kia, which is currently the largest employer in Troup County and has had an undeniably large impact on the economy in both Troup and surrounding counties.

“Free and fair trade makes the United States a competitive marketplace. Broad restrictions, such as tariffs, on auto and auto part imports will raise costs for American consumers and families,” Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia said in an official company statement. “Kia has a significant manufacturing presence in Georgia, and its U.S. operations and associated suppliers have created almost 25,000 American jobs and invested $7.74 billion in the United States. Kia’s U.S. dealerships have created another 38,000 U.S. jobs, and Kia continues to be committed to this very important market. Kia is proud to contribute to a thriving U.S. auto industry, to provide well-paying jobs and to invest in American communities.”

As West Point’s former mayor, Ferguson expressed a desire to see the automotive industry continue to succeed in the area, though no solutions were immediately announced.

“Not too many years ago, my hometown was falling apart,” Ferguson said in a press release following the meeting.

“I saw my friends and neighbors lose their livelihoods, their homes — the lives they had built for their families. But because of global auto investment, our community is back to work and thriving. I will continue to stand up for my neighbors in the global auto industry so that decisions here in Washington don’t hurt our vibrant communities at home.”

The proposal has also received criticism from trading partners since it was first proposed. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Automotive Policy Council, Association of Global Automakers, Asociación Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, Global Automakers of Canada, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, and Industria Nacional de Autopartes A.C. issued the following joint statement earlier this month:

“As a new government forms in Mexico on Dec. 1, 2018, we believe now is the time for all parties to return to the negotiating table with a renewed commitment to the modernization of a cohesive three-country NAFTA agreement. We have a great opportunity to update this trade agreement and it is in the best interest of all three countries to refocus on establishing a new NAFTA agreement that will allow the North American auto industry to remain globally competitive.”

Ferguson confirmed that lawmakers in Washington also want to see that agreement modernized and finalized as soon as possible.

“We want to see that agreement finalized and in place as quickly as possible,” Ferguson said. “We are working with the administration to encourage them to get the final document to get the modernization done because we think that it can be good for American workers and American business.”