Trump considers new trade investigation to justify tariffs on EU
No auto tariffs for now, but more tariffs could be coming
Trump administration officials are considering whether to start a new trade investigation against the European Union as the window closes for hitting Brussels with automobile tariffs, according to multiple people briefed on the issue.
Auto tariffs have been under consideration for national security reasons but the clock ran out on that option on Nov 14 so instead Trump's team is looking at a much broader inquiry.
This is a play for leverage in negotiations rather than a move to actually put the tariffs on. Investigations like this clear the way for tariffs but don't impose them and they make the threat of action much more tangible.
Rather than using Section 232 national security powers, this investigation would fall under Section 301 which is potentially more sweeping and it's what has been used against China. It allows for trade restrictions if an investigation finds that a country is engaged in a practice that is unjustifiable and burdens or restricts US commerce.
Those briefed on the latest matter said it wasn't clear which EU trade policies that the administration would target in any inquiry, and whether autos are still the main target of Trump's potential actions.
I have long believed that Trump planned to pivot to the EU after China, similarly to how he started the China trade war after wrapping up NAFTA. However his timeline has been scuttled by a failure to make real progress with China.