Hyundai Motor union warns auto tariffs could hurt US jobs

Hyundai Motor Co.’s labor union said Thursday that steep auto tariffs the U.S. is considering could cost tens of thousands of American jobs.

The labor union at South Korea’s largest auto company said in a statement that if President Donald Trump goes ahead with imposing 25 percent auto tariffs, it will hurt Hyundai’s U.S. sales and jeopardize some 20,000 jobs at a Hyundai factory in Alabama.

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The labor union, which has 51,000 members in South Korea, said its contracts with Hyundai Motor mandates Hyundai to shut down overseas factories first before closing its plants in South Korea in the event that restructuring becomes inevitable.

“If South Korean car exports to the U.S. get blocked and hurt sales, the U.S. factory in Alabama that went into operation in May 2005 could be the first one to be shut down, putting some 20,000 American workers at risk of layoffs,” the statement said.

The union also said that South Korean carmakers were already penalized during the renegotiations of the bilateral trade agreement. Seoul and Washington agreed to postpone the removal of tariffs on Korean pickup trucks by another 20 years, a measure that the auto industry was unhappy with but won South Korea an exemption from U.S. steel tariffs.

The U.S. Department of Commerce is investigating whether auto imports pose enough national security threats to justify tariffs. The European Union had earlier warned auto tariffs could lead to global retaliation.

Hyundai Motor is the world’s fifth-largest automaker along with Kia Motors.

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This story corrects the number of jobs at Hyundai’s Alabama factory.

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