Japan's Abe: US auto tariffs will cost US jobs, harm economy

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo Friday, July 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO — Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned the U.S. on Friday that higher tariffs on auto imports would backfire and harm not only America's jobs and economy but also devastate the global economy.

Abe told a news conference marking the end of a Diet session that Japan's auto and auto parts industry has never threatened America's national security and it never will. Abe said he will keep explaining that to Trump.

Trump has ordered the U.S. government to investigate if higher tariffs on foreign-made vehicles and auto parts are justified on national security grounds.

Japan's auto industry has for decades invested billions of dollars in U.S. plants that employ hundreds of thousands of workers. Japanese automakers produce twice as many vehicles in the U.S. as they export from Japan, Abe said.

"Japan provides good jobs and contributes greatly to America's economy," Abe said. "If restriction measures were imposed, such employment will be lost, and not only will it have a negative impact on the U.S. economy but also cause tremendous damage to the world economy."

Abe's government last month sent a report to the U.S. Department of Commerce, warning against any trade restrictions.

In that report, Japan's government said any trade restrictions, if imposed, would increase costs for U.S. consumers and cause many Americans to lose jobs. It said the measures would put a break on global trade, disrupt the market and put global free trade "at great risk."

Up to 624,000 people could lose their jobs in the U.S. if a 25 percent tariff was levied on automobiles and auto parts and other countries retaliated.

Abe said he has repeatedly reminded Trump of Japanese auto makers' contribution to his country.

"Exchanges of trade restriction measures will benefit nobody," Abe said. "While explaining these points, we will persistently work hard to avoid trade restriction measures."

Already hit by increased U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, Japan has told the World Trade Organization it may levy retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods totaling about 50 billion yen ($450 million) a year.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Find her work at https://www.apnews.com/search/mari%20yamaguchi

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