Investor's Corner

Elon Musk urges Trump to act on US-China import duties, ownership rules

Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Thursday, calling on US President Donald Trump to address the existing US-China import duties and ownership constraints faced by American car manufacturers operating in the Asian nation. The billionaire CEO’s tweets were a response to the US President’s announcement describing China’s planned $1 billion reduction in the economic superpower’s trade deficit with the United States. 

Through a series of messages on Twitter, Musk explained the existing imbalance in the import duties between American and Chinese automakers. In classic Musk fashion, the Tesla CEO’s tweets were sharp with wit, direct to the point, and filled with facts.

“Do you think the US & China should have equal & fair rules for cars? Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints & other factors. For example, an American car going to China pays 25% import duty, but a Chinese car coming to the US only pays 2.5%, a tenfold difference.”

Musk then went on to describe how ownership rules among American automakers operating in China are skewed against the US-based firms. According to Musk, under the current ownership rules between the two countries, American automakers are perpetually facing an unfair challenge.

“Also, no US auto company is allowed to own even 50% of their own factory in China, but there are five 100% China-owned EV auto companies in the US. I am against import duties in general, but the current rules make things very difficult. It’s like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.”

Musk ended his Twitter statement with a request for the president, stating that all he really wants is a fair balance between American businesses operating in China and Chinese businesses operating in the United States. Musk even noted that he hopes his request was not “unreasonable.”

“We raised this with the prior administration and nothing happened. Just want a fair outcome, ideally where tariffs/rules are equally moderate. Nothing more. Hope this does not seem unreasonable.”

As we noted in a previous report, Tesla is currently facing a possible roadblock with its plan to open a factory in China. According to individuals who claim to have direct knowledge of the matter, Tesla and Shanghai officials have disagreed about the ownership of the proposed electric car factory. The Chinese regulations were reportedly firm on their rule of requiring foreign car makers to engage in a joint venture with a local firm. Tesla, however, is firmly opposed to the idea and would like sole ownership of the facility, which is reportedly the factory that will manufacture the Model Y and, to some degree, the Model 3.

Tesla’s vehicles are also competing with a handicap in China.  Due to its cars not being manufactured locally, Tesla’s offerings have been weighed down in the market with a steep 25% import tax, making them far more expensive than electric cars from local competitors.

While Donald Trump is yet to issue a direct response to Musk’s statements on Twitter, the US President has been quite open about his support for Elon Musk. In a recent statement on NASA and America’s space initiatives, the US President candidly referred to Musk and SpaceX’s recent milestones. Trump even expressed his amazement at the recent Falcon Heavy launch, stating that he has never seen anything like it before.  

“Rich guys, you know, they love rocket ships. That’s good. That’s better than us paying for them,” Trump said.

“I don’t know if you saw last, with Elon, with these rocket boosters, where they’re coming back down. For me, that’s more amazing than watching the rocket go up, ‘cause I’ve never seen that before. Nobody’s seen that before. They’re saving the boosters. They came back, without wings, without anything. They landed so beautifully,” Trump added.

Watch the president talk about NASA and SpaceX in the clip below.

Elon Musk urges Trump to act on US-China import duties, ownership rules
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