© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump talks to reporters before boarding the Marine One helicopter to begin travel to Mississippi from the White House in Washington

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said new auto tariffs are “being studied now,” asserting they could prevent job cuts such as the U.S. layoffs and plant closures that General Motors Co (N:) announced this week.

Trump said on Twitter that the 25 percent tariff placed on imported pickup trucks and commercial vans from markets outside North America in the 1960s has long boosted U.S. vehicle production.

“If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here,” Trump said, adding “and G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland.”

The United States currently has a 2.5 percent tariff on imported cars and sport utility vehicles from markets outside North America and South Korea.

GM did not directly comment on Trump’s tweets, but reiterated that it was committed to investing in the United States. On Monday, the company said it will shutter five North American plants, stop building six low-selling passenger cars in North America and cut up to 15,000 jobs. The company has no plans to shift production of those vehicles to other markets.

The administration is considering imposing dramatic new tariffs on imported vehicles.

“The President has great power on this issue – Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!” Trump said.

The U.S. Commerce Department has circulated draft recommendations to the White House on its investigation into whether to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts on national security grounds, Reuters reported earlier this month.

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The White House has pledged not to move forward with imposing tariffs on the European Union or Japan as long as it is making constructive progress in trade talks.

Trump wants the EU and Japan to buy more American-made vehicles. He wants the EU and Japan make trade concessions including lowering the EU’s 10 percent tariff on imported vehicles and cutting non-tariff barriers.

The prospect of tariffs of 25 percent on imported autos and parts has sent shockwaves through the auto industry, with both U.S. and foreign-brand producers lobbying against it.

The White House in recent weeks has reached out to the chief executives of German automakers including Daimler AG (DE:), BMW AG (DE:) and Volkswagen AG (DE:) about meeting to discuss the status of auto trade.

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