Ford CEO Responds To Donald Trump’s Tariff Pledge

Mark Fields: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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President-elect Donald Trump focused his attention on the Ford Motor Company throughout his 18-month bid for the White House, and Ford’s CEO has responded.

Ford CEO Mark Fields asserted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles Tuesday that a 35 percent tariff on cars made in Mexico entering the United States “could have a huge impact on the U.S. economy” and would impact the entire auto industry.

Trump first threatened to impose a 35 percent tariff on all cars and trucks produced by Ford in Mexico in June 2015, the same month he announced his candidacy for the presidency. Trump’s specific focus on Ford could be attributed to the automaker’s April 2015 announcement of a $2.5 billion expansion of operations in Mexico.

The President-elect appealed to working class voters in rust belt states, due to his strong stance on trade. He made Ford a central tenant of his campaign from the get-go, saying at his presidential announcement speech in June 2015 that, “If I was president I’d say [to Ford] ‘Congratulations, I understand that you’re building a nice, $2.5 billion dollar factory in Mexico and that you’re going to take your cars and sell them to the United States.'”

“I’d say ‘Congratulations, that’s the good news. Let me give you the bad news. Every car, and every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35% tax. Okay? And that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction, and that’s it,’” Trump promised during his presidential campaign launch, and then countless times again on the campaign trail.

Numerous reports indicated that Trump went as far as to tell Ford Motor executives to their faces that he would uphold his tariff plans.

Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford met with Trump to defend his company against the then-candidate’s bevy of attacks throughout the campaign.

“He’s a very good listener, and he knows the facts,” Ford Jr. said following the meeting. The great-grandson of Henry Ford pointed out that rhetoric on the campaign trail is a “different animal,” and seemed to accept the fact that Trump would use Ford as an example for the length of the campaign.

Fields said Ford sent Trump a congratulatory letter after the election, and emphasized that the company is global and committed to free trade. Ford was against the Trans-Pacific Partnership because the agreement lacked “adequate” currency manipulation rules, an area on which Trump and the automaker see eye to eye.

Meanwhile, China has threatened to respond to any new tariffs by Trump with immediate counter measures. (RELATED: China Says It Will Retaliate If Trump Taxes Chinese Goods)

“A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US,” a Chinese communist-controlled paper said.

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