By now, the 25 percent tariff on pickups is hard-wired into the U.S. industry’s business model. Ford and the United Auto Workers fought the U.S.-Korean free-trade agreement under Trump’s predecessors for fear the deal would open the American market to Korean-made pickups. Trump’s renegotiated deal with Seoul, signed last year, extends the tariff on Korean pickups through 2041.
Whether pickup protection has been good for American consumers is another question. The Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram are great vehicles and great brands, but how much better, and cheaper, might they have become with more competition?
In the long run, Detroit’s dependence on the pickup tariff isn’t even necessarily good for the automakers. It dulled their incentives to compete in the global market for smaller vehicles, which is one reason the American companies have tolerated Europe’s 10 percent tariff on cars, even though it’s four times the U.S. tariff on European cars.