Trump teases 'big news' for US auto workers, offers no details
President Donald Trump (AFP / Olivier Douliery)

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly pledged to revive American manufacturing, said on Wednesday that “big news” was coming that would be welcomed by U.S. auto workers but he gave no details.

“There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers. After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump said in a tweet.

The White House declined to comment, and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative referred queries to the White House.

Automakers scrambled after the tweet to get details. Some of them speculated that Trump could be referring to trade with the European Union.

In a meeting earlier this month with major automakers, Trump threatened to impose 20 percent or 25 percent tariffs on EU-built vehicles, according to three people briefed on the talks.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the large trade imbalance on autos between the United States and the EU. In March, he threatened in a tweet to “simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S.”

The United States imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on cars assembled in Europe and a 25 percent tariff on European-built vans and pickup trucks. Europe imposes a 10 percent tariff on U.S.-built cars.

Auto trade has been a big sticking point in talks between the United States, Mexico and Canada as they try to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The United States and Mexico have deadlocked over U.S. demands for wage increases in the auto sector and for a boost in the North American content in cars. Last week, the top U.S. trade official said the three countries were “nowhere close to a deal.”

At the same time, Washington and South Korea are working to finalize language in an updated U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement.

 Under an agreement-in-principle, South Korea agreed to an extension of a 25 percent U.S. tariff on pickup trucks for another 20 years until 2041. These were due to begin phasing out in 2019, causing concerns that South Korea would soon begin exporting pickup trucks to the United States.

Trump hinted at the possibility of “good news” on trade with South Korea during a meeting on Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“We will have some pretty good news, I think, on trade,” he told reporters as the two leaders sat down.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and David Lawder; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Jeffrey Benkoe