Imported vehicles are seen at a car dealership in Tianjin bonded zone, China in January. -Reuters
In the Chinese port city of Tianjin, gray market traders of American-made cars, badly stung by a scything trade war and punitive tit-for-tat tariffs, are scrambling to take advantage of an opportunity they fear may prove only temporary.
At a car "supermarket" near the city's busy harbor, importers told Reuters they were rushing to get "Made in America" cars through customs and revving up orders after Beijing temporarily cut tariffs on US autos from Jan. 1.
The activity at the port - after a freeze since China hit US auto imports with a 40 percent tariff last July - illustrates how ebbs and flows in the protracted trade war between Washington and Beijing are impacting global businesses.
"Our business was harshly hit in 2018. Sales fell steeply and we were forced to hold cars in bonded zones to wait for tariffs to be cut," said Kevin Li, a dealer at the port whose firm brings in US-made luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs). "Now we are discussing with dealers in the US to start importing more cars once again."
The higher tariffs have hit premium carmakers who import a large portion of the vehicles they sell in China, including Tesla Inc , Ford Motor Co's Lincoln brand, and Germany's BMW and Daimler AG, which both have manufacturing in the United States.
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