Auto Executives Meet With Pence on Nafta Concerns

By Mike Colias Features Dow Jones Newswires

Top executives from Detroit's auto makers met with Vice President Mike Pence in Washington Monday, reiterating concerns that potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement could disrupt the industry's intricate supply chains.

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Auto makers and suppliers are worried about proposals from Trump administration Nafta negotiators that would require that vehicles have 50% U.S. content to qualify for duty-free imports into the U.S. The industry says those changes to NAFTA's so-called rule of origin could raise vehicle prices for U.S. consumers.

General Motors Co. Chief Executive Mary Barra met with Mr. Pence along with Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Co.'s global operations chief, according to the companies. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne also was scheduled to attend, according to a person familiar with his plans.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Donald Trump's top trade negotiator, also attended, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Over the last two decades, car companies and their suppliers have invested in supply bases in Mexico that likely would take years to unwind if tariffs force companies to move component production to the U.S.

The American Automotive Policy Council, a lobbying group, said in a statement that the meeting afforded executives the opportunity to "directly address the industry's concerns with the administration's rule of origin proposal."

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The group said "we view the modernization of Nafta as an important opportunity to update the 23-year-old agreement and set the stage for an expansion of U.S. auto exports." Its priorities include strong "currency discipline" and "ensuring foreign markets accept products built to our standards."

Mr. Pence is the former governor of Indiana, home to a large GM pickup-truck plant and other automotive factories. GM's trucks, a major profit generator, are seen as vulnerable to changes in NAFTA's rule of origin because more than half of their parts come from Mexico.

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 27, 2017 21:38 ET (02:38 GMT)