Auto tariffs would cost thousands of jobs in Alabama

State / Regional

If President Trump goes through with threatened tariffs on auto imports, thousands of jobs in Alabama could be jeopardized, according to union officials with Hyundai. 

Thursday, Hyundai Motor Co.’s labor union warned that steep auto tariffs the U.S. could cost tens of thousands of American jobs. The labor union at South Korea’s largest auto company said in a statement that if President Donald Trump goes ahead with imposing 25 percent auto tariffs, it will hurt Hyundai’s U.S. sales and jeopardize thousands of jobs at a Hyundai factory in Alabama. The labor union, which has 51,000 members in South Korea, said its contracts with Hyundai Motor mandate Hyundai shut down overseas factories first before closing its plants in South Korea in the event that restructuring becomes inevitable.

“If South Korean car exports to the U.S. get blocked and hurt sales, the U.S. factory in Alabama that went into operation in May 2005 could be the first one to be shut down, putting some 20,000 American workers at risk of layoffs,” the statement said. The union said it expects South Korea to win an exemption from auto tariffs.

Hyundai Motor is the world’s fifth-largest automaker along with Kia Motors.

In May, the Trump administration floated a 25 percent tariff on auto imports, framing the national security measure to ensure the vitality of key U.S. industries. While there are views that the threat of auto tariffs is a negotiating ploy, there are also concerns that the Trump administration could deliver on the threats as it has done with China.

The move has already met pushback from global automakers. The Association of Global Automakers, a coalition representing major global automakers including Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Hyundai Motor Co., warned last month that high tariffs on imported vehicles and auto components could slash hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. auto sector and dramatically raise vehicle prices for consumers. Experts at U.S. auto think tank also said car sales could fall and jobs could be lost. The European Union had earlier warned auto tariffs could lead to global retaliation.

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