Trump blames GM plant closures on lack of auto tariffs

President Trump suggested in a tweet on Wednesday that General Motors could have avoided a controversial plan to cut costs amid restructuring if Congress imposed tariffs on foreign car imports.

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“The reason that the small truck business in the U.S. is such a go to favorite is that, for many years, tariffs of 25% have been put on small trucks coming into our country. It is called the ‘chicken tax,’” he wrote. “If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here.....and G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland. Get smart Congress.”

The closures of five GM facilities in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Ontario and the slashing of 15 percent of its North American salaried workforce sparked the ire of Trump, who on Tuesday said he was “very disappointed” and threatened to cut all subsidies for the largest American automaker.

The layoffs could affect up to 14,000 employees. GM will also cease production of several car models, including the Chevrolet Cruze and the Buick LaCrosse.

According to Trump, the reason the small-truck business in the U.S. is flourishing -- more than 1.4 million pickup trucks were sold through the first half of the year, according to Kelley Blue Book -- is because of a 25 percent tariff on small truck imports. (It’s known as the chicken tax, because in the 1960s, the U.S. imposed tariffs on a number of foreign products, including light trucks, in retaliation to a European tariff on American poultry.).

“Also, the countries that send us cars have taken advantage of the U.S. for decades,” he added. “The President has great power on this issue - Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!”

While talking to reporters, CEO Mary Barra said GM is making the cuts to “get in front of it while the company is strong and while the economy is strong." She also suggested that tariffs Trump imposed on imported aluminum and steel have hurt the company.