Japan "disappointed" in Trump's auto industry trade war

As you may have heard, the President had a few more verbal salvos to fire last week in the trade wars. One of them, in particular, had to do with the auto industry, specifically auto imports, which Donald Trump described as a potential national security threat. Most of the verbal saber rattling lately has been directed at China, but this particular comment caught the attention of Japan. And to say the least, they found the message disheartening. (CNBC)

Japanese automakers, led by Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda, had more harsh words for U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday after he labeled international auto imports a threat to national security last week.

“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 Toyoda, chairman of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturing Association.

Toyoda said he was “deeply disappointed” in Trump and that trade restrictions “would deliver a serious blow to the U.S. auto industry and economy.”

The group released new data that shows they have collectively invested about $51 billion in manufacturing in the United States over the last several decades. The group also estimates its members have created almost 94,000 manufacturing jobs at their U.S. plants and more than 1.6 million indirect jobs, like at dealerships and suppliers in the U.S.

I’m having a hard time suppressing my inner eight-year-old when seeing that the President of Toyota Motors is named Toyoda. Talk about being born for the job you’ll eventually hold. But with the infantile jokes out of the way, it’s worth looking at what he’s saying.

I have zero doubt that President Trump is sincere in his desire to play some hardball on the trade front and get the best deals possible with our foreign partners. And given his usual negotiating style, it’s not surprising that he’d unload some larger verbal guns in the process. But if we’re being honest, Japan has been a pretty solid trade partner, particularly when it comes to the auto industry.

When our own auto companies were hitting a rough patch and plants were downsizing or closing, Japanese auto manufacturers were actually investing in plants in the United States. This is particularly true of Toyota. I’m sure it made good enough business sense or they wouldn’t have done it, but they also doubtless saw the benefit of buying some goodwill from Washington by investing in our country.

This is a point that Toyota regularly makes sure to point out, as we’ve covered here in years past. And once again, at the most recent Washington D.C. Auto Show, they were making sure to remind everyone of just where many of those Toyota vehicles were being built. Here’s a photo of just one example of many that were on display. (Click for full size)

Note that this particular Toyota was made in Vice President Pence’s home state of Indiana. That’s just a bit on the nose, wouldn’t you say?

President Trump has recently seen some victories in his trade negotiations, particularly with Canada and Mexico. The negotiations with China continue, but they’ve got to come to some resolution sooner or later. When it comes to Japan and the auto industry, however, we might want to speak a tad less loudly and carry a slightly smaller stick.