Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell is Leading an Effort to Counter Threat of Chinese Auto Imports

By Jeffrey Bonior
Apr 10 2024 |
Workers in an automobile factory in Beijing. Getty Images

Dingell joined a group of fellow Democrats to urge the Biden administration to block Chinese autos from entering the U.S. market.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich) and eight other House Democrats sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday urging action to mitigate the imminent danger posed by the expansion of Chinese automotive exports into the United States.

The representatives from the auto manufacturing states of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Alabama warned that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) recent efforts to ingratiate its low-cost, state-subsidized automobiles into the American marketplace will create “economic and national security concerns that will have consequences for American jobs and manufacturing.”

The letter applauds the Biden administration’s “recent efforts to investigate risks associated with foreign adversarial highly connected vehicle supply chains,” stating “this is vital to addressing the immediate threat posed by Chinese automotive imports on our critical infrastructure.”

But the lawmakers also asked the administration “to take decisive action to block the entry of Chinese automobiles into the American market,” including by increasing tariffs on cars backed by the CCP. They also called for a review of the existing Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods, and asked the Commerce Department to enforce the rules in existing trade agreements to ensure that automobiles and vehicles parts produced by Chinese manufacturers in third countries are not benefiting from preferential treatment.

The legislators’ letter closely echoes a new report by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) which uncovers the existential threat China’s plans pose to the U.S. auto industry should the federal government fail to act now.

Policy recommendations in the AAM report include:

  • Impose exclusionary tariffs on all Chinese automobile imports to the U.S.; enact the Level the Playing Field Act 2.0; reinstate Section 421; and improve the Steel import Monitoring and Analysis System;
  • Use the upcoming 2026 joint review of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to tighten its rules of origin for all automobile content so that unfairly traded Chinese auto parts aren’t benefitting from the deal’s preferential treatment rules;
  • Fully implement and enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act with additional emphasis on metals, automotive parts, and battery content and raw materials utilized in EVs. As recent credible reports have shown, Chinese auto supply chains are rife with the use of forced labor;
  • Strictly enforce the Clean Vehicle Tax Credits authorized under the Inflation Reduction Act and other domestic content preferences for automobile content and related transit.

After years of government subsidies and other forms of financial and regulatory support all along the supply chain, Chinese automakers are fully dominant in their home market. With a production capacity between 5 and 10 million vehicles per year, these CCP backed companies are looking for overseas customers, and already finding success.

Chinese automakers haven’t been able to penetrate the U.S. market yet, in part thanks to tariffs currently placed on Chinese autos. But there is worry they will attempt to circumvent those tariffs and other trade actions via third-party countries like Mexico.

Chinese automakers are building out large auto assembly plants in Mexico. Chinese foreign direct investment in Mexico increased by 126% between 2018 and 2022, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis, with much of it going into the auto sector.

The nine Members of Congress want the United States to act before it is too late, warning that “it is imperative that the Administration take proactive steps to address the threat posed by CCP-subsidized imports into the U.S. automotive sector. Failure to act will have far-reaching consequences for the American economy and for our national security interests.”

House members that signed the letter along with Dingell include Michigan Reps. Haley Stevens, Elissa Slotkin, Daniel Kildee, and Shri Thanedar; Indiana’s Frank Mrvan and Andre Carson; Ohio’s Marcy Kaptur and Alabama’s Terri Sewell.