NEW YORK (REUTERS) - United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday (Dec 3) the Trump administration has not ruled out imposing tariffs on imported cars, after letting a review period end in November with no action.
"We've been having negotiations with the individual companies. We've had some very good benefits from that," Mr Ross told Reuters in New York.
"It may or may not turn out that there is any need for the tariff."
US President Donald Trump did not announce any new tariffs after a six-month, self-imposed review period expired in mid-November following a Commerce Department "Section 232" investigation into whether imported cars pose a national security threat.
He has threatened to tax them by as much as 25 per cent.
Asked if there was a new deadline, Mr Ross referred to a White House statement last month that did not include a new deadline.
Automobile experts have said the US administration may have to find other means if Mr Trump wants to tax European or Japanese car imports, a key part of Mr Trump's pledge to make America's trade relationships more fair.
Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, said on Tuesday in response to Mr Ross' comments that the Commerce Department would need to a launch a new investigation before it could impose the tariffs.
"VWs & Toyotas don't pose a national security threat. The window to levy 232 tariffs on foreign autos is closed. If #CommerceGov wants to impose punitive taxes on Americans who buy foreign cars, they must launch a new investigation. Congress should reassert authority over 232 tariffs," Mr Toomey wrote on Twitter.
Mr Ross said it was theoretically possible that Washington could use tariffs authorised by the World Trade Organisation under a separate case over aircraft subsidies to impose tariffs on European car imports.
But he declined to say if the administration was examining that possibility.
Mr Ross noted on Tuesday the EU imposes a 10 per cent tariff on US cars, while the US imposes a 2.5 per cent tariff on EU cars.
"There has already has been a tariff war. The only thing is we haven't been defending ourselves. We've been accepting the lopsidedness of things," Mr Ross said.