Japan auto lobby dismayed Trump declares some imports security threat

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s automakers’ lobby said on Tuesday it was dismayed by President Donald Trump’s declaration that some imported vehicles and parts posed a threat to U.S. national security, as the industry braces for a possible rise in U.S. tariffs.

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Trump made the unprecedented designation of foreign vehicles on Friday but delayed for up to six months a decision on whether to impose tariffs to allow for more time for trade talks with Japan and the European Union.

“We are dismayed to hear a message suggesting that our long-time contributions of investment and employment in the United States are not welcomed,” said Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“As chairman, I am deeply saddened by this decision,” Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp, said in a statement.

Trump has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on imported cars made by foreign automakers, a move which automakers have argued would ramp up car prices, curb the global competitiveness of U.S.-made vehicles and limit investment in the country, the world’s No. 2 auto market.

The United States is a vital market for Toyota, Nissan Motor Co, Honda Motor Co and other Japanese car makers. Autos and components are among the Asian country’s biggest export products.

Most of Japan’s major automakers operate plants in the United States. At least half of the cars and trucks sold in the country by Japan’s top three carmakers are made in the United States.

Major automakers have announced a slew of investments in the United States since Trump took office in January 2017 and put pressure on the industry to create more U.S. jobs.

For its part, Toyota has pledged to invest almost $13 billion in the United States between 2017 and 2021 to boost manufacturing capacity and jobs.

This includes $1.6 billion for a vehicle assembly plant in Alabama jointly run with Mazda Motor Corp.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; editing by Darren Schuettler