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U.S. Commerce Department Recommends White House on How to Proceed with Auto Industry Tariffs

Some trade organizations also blasted the Commerce Department for keeping the details of its "Section 232" national security report shrouded in secrecy.

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Auto industry, tariffs
Robots swing a cab and bed into place for a new heavy duty pickup truck on the assembly line where Chevrolet Silverado trucks are being built at General Motors Flint Assembly in Flint, Michigan, Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

The U.S. auto industry urged President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday not to saddle imported cars and auto parts with steep tariffs, after the U.S. Commerce Department sent a confidential report to the White House late on Sunday with its recommendations for how to proceed.

Some trade organizations also blasted the Commerce Department for keeping the details of its “Section 232” national security report shrouded in secrecy, which will make it much harder for the industry to react during the next 90 days Trump will have to review it.

“Secrecy around the report only increases the uncertainty and concern across the industry created by the threat of tariffs,” the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association said in a statement, adding that it was “alarmed and dismayed.”

“It is critical that our industry have the opportunity to review the recommendations and advise the White House on how proposed tariffs, if they are recommended, will put jobs at risk, impact consumers, and trigger a reduction in U.S. investments that could set us back decades.”

Representatives from the White House and the Commerce Department could not immediately be reached.

Auto industry, tariffs
Some trade organizations also blasted the Commerce Department for keeping the details of its “Section 232” national security report shrouded in secrecy. VOA

The industry has warned that possible tariffs of up to 25 percent on millions of imported cars and parts would add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially devastate the U.S economy by slashing jobs.

Administration officials have said tariff threats on autos are a way to win concessions from Japan and the EU. Last year, Trump agreed not to impose tariffs as long as talks with the two trading partners were proceeding in a productive manner.

“We believe the imposition of higher import tariffs on automotive products under Section 232 and the likely retaliatory tariffs against U.S. auto exports would undermine – and not help – the economic and employment contributions that FCA, US, Ford Motor Company and General Motors make to the U.S. economy,” said former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, the president of the American Automotive Policy Council.

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Some Republican lawmakers have also said they share the industry’s concerns. In a statement issued on Monday, Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski said she fears the Commerce Department’s report could “set the stage for costly tariffs on cars and auto parts.”

“President Trump is right to seek a level playing field for American businesses and workers, but the best way to do that is with a scalpel, not an axe,” she added. (VOA)

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Report: Trump Administration to Eliminate Refugee Admissions to Zero in Coming Year

Since the so-called “refugee ceiling” is an upper limit, and not a quota, the government is not required to meet the annual admissions number

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refugees
Migrant children sleep on the floor of a shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, July 17, 2019. Asylum-seekers grappled to understand a new U.S. policy that all but eliminates refugee claims by Central Americans and many others. VOA

The Trump administration is considering more dramatic cuts to the U.S. refugee program, with one official suggesting the White House not allow any refugees into the country in the coming fiscal year.

In a Politico report released Thursday, government officials from several federal agencies attended a meeting last week and discussed several options that included a ceiling of 10,000 — well below the current refugee ceiling of 30,000, which is already an all-time low for the program.

The U.S. resettled 23,190 refugees since the beginning of fiscal 2019 last October. With 2½ months remaining until the count resets, the U.S. is on track to fall short of this year’s cap, according to U.S. State Department data.

Since the so-called “refugee ceiling” is an upper limit, and not a quota, the government is not required to meet the annual admissions number.

refugees
Trump repeatedly attempted a ban on refugees with multiple executive orders on travel during his first year in office, citing “national security” concerns. VOA

Multiple figures

Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, one of the primary refugee resettlement nongovernmental organizations in the U.S., said he has heard multiple figures proposed for the coming fiscal year, all well below the program’s historical annual threshold of around 60,000 to 70,000.

In President Barack Obama’s last year two years in office, his administration made a concerted effort to increase the number of admitted refugees, with a particular focus on Syrians fleeing conflict and persecution.

And since the U.S. president is the one who ultimately makes the final decision when it comes to the number of refugee admissions, President Donald Trump has leeway to further reduce the total allowed.

“The president hasn’t made an actual decision, that won’t happen till October. But I suspect they’re testing the waters a bit to see if, in fact, the public will respond to this, and if there will be any public outrage,” Arbeiter told VOA. “So it is a proposed number, it is not a final number, but a number anywhere between zero, and we’ve heard 3,000, 7,000 10,000, but anywhere in that range, what it effectively does is it closes the door on refugees, and effectively constitutes a total ban on refugees.”

refugees
The journey has become more dangerous because of greater reliance by refugees and migrants on smugglers to transport them to the U.S. border. VOA

Earlier ban attempts

Trump repeatedly attempted a ban on refugees with multiple executive orders on travel during his first year in office, citing “national security” concerns. Those worries, however, were not substantiated by data and no scientific study demonstrates a correlation between refugee admissions and elevated crime or security risks.

Each year, the president makes an annual determination, after appropriate consultation with Congress, regarding the refugee admissions ceiling for the following fiscal year. That determination is expected to be made before the start of fiscal 2020 on Oct. 1, 2019.

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The U.S. State Department is one of the leading agencies involved in the deliberation process with the White House over refugee admissions. In an emailed statement Friday, a spokesperson reiterated the president makes the decision on the ceiling every year “after appropriate consultation with Congress.”

Beyond that, however, the spokesperson said the State Department would “not discuss internal and interagency deliberations or communications involved in such deliberations.” Last year, however, the White House was criticized by members of Congress after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the fiscal 2019 cap would be 30,000, before the legally required meetings with Capitol Hill lawmakers happened. (VOA)