A high stakes investigation with profound impact on the nation’s future delivered its report to the White House Sunday. The president has 90 days to decide whether or not to act on its recommendations.
Independent prosecutor Bob Mueller is not running this probe. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is.
Last May, President Trump ordered the Commerce Department to determine whether auto “imports are weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security.” Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 the president has the authority to impose tariffs on national security grounds – tariffs on imported automobiles and/or auto parts.
The president’s critics scoffed when he ordered the investigation. They said the Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force do not depend on passenger cars, and besides, they could drive imports if necessary.
But the same critics who’ve gotten it wrong so many times before were wrong again.
They don’t understand that automobiles are a keystone industry crucial to any advanced industrial society. The automotive industry has the economy of scale to support other industries such steel, plastics, chemicals, foundry, machining and advanced materials with the know-how, technology and capacity our defense industries depend on.
As President Trump said, “core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a nation.”
That’s why every country that ever wanted to achieve first world status sought to develop an automobile industry. (See: Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, China, Mexico.)
History is replete with examples of the connection between the automotive industry and national security. American automobile factories churned out machine guns, aircraft parts and other armaments during World War II. Mitsubishi manufactured the Japanese Zero fighter aircraft.
But we should look to the future rather than the past to understand the national security implications of the automobile industry.
The industry is in the midst of a fundamental changeover — from internal combustion to electric propulsion. Vehicles will incorporate artificial intelligence, advanced materials and electronics. Money from auto sales will support R & D in these crucial technologies that have military applications.
Electric cars are the future — and China wants to own the future. Analysts predict global sales of 30 million electric vehicles by 2030, with China making up half of those.
Now we have news that China is targeting Tesla with an electric car that sells for $15,000 and “may just redefine the commuter car,” Bloomberg reports.
The one-seater, three-wheeled electric vehicle is named the Solo. It can hit 80 mph, go 100 miles on a charge and be recharged at home overnight on a regular 110 volt wall socket.
Bloomberg erroneously implied the Solo is made in Canada. It’s actually made in China.
The Canadian company marketing it, Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corporation, “signed a volume production deal with China’s Zongshen Industrial Group, which will eventually produce 75,000 Solo battery-electric vehicles,” Automotive News Canada reported. “The agreement calls for Zongshen, based in Chongqing, to produce 5,000 of the three-wheeled single-seat commuter vehicles in this year, 20,000 in 2019 and 50,000 in 2020.”
Make no mistake. These vehicles are destined for the U.S., not Canada. China plans to use Canada as the bridgehead.
And this is not China’s first attempt to gain a foothold in the U.S., nor the first time it lied to break into the U.S. auto market.
Exhibit A is the “Coda” electric car that premiered at the L.A. auto show a few years back.
Billed as “All American,” this electric Trojan horse was actually made in China by the state-owned company that supplies weapons to China’s military and bloody regimes around the world.
China also has a history of using high-level political players in both parties as shills to wield its influence.
Private investors in Coda included former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty; Henry Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs CEO who served as Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush; and John Bryson, President Obama’s Commerce secretary.
But wait, there’s more: GreenTech, an electric car company founded by former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and Hugh Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother. The company relied on Chinese investment and technology, raising $141.5 million from investors as part of the EB-5 visa program that offered foreign investors permanent U.S. residency in exchange for cash. GreenTech filed for bankruptcy amid numerous lawsuits without producing a single vehicle.
China understands the importance of the automotive industry. In the race for the next generation of vehicles, it will do anything it can to overtake the U.S. on the curve.
President Trump understands that too, even if his critics don’t.
Curtis Ellis is senior policy adviser with America First Policies. He was a senior policy adviser with the Donald J. Trump campaign.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.