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Trump urges automakers to build more vehicles in U.S., blasts NAFTA

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - on Friday pressed automakers to build more vehicles in the and launched a fresh attack on the that has benefited them, while the companies urged him to work with to keep nationwide U.S. vehicle emissions standards.

CEOs or senior executives from 10 U.S. and foreign automakers met with Trump for about an hour at the as the considers loosening federal fuel efficiency and pollution standards implemented under Democratic former

Afterward, two major auto industry trade groups said in a joint statement that Trump expressed an "openness to a discussion with on an expedited basis." and 16 other states covering about 40 percent of the U.S. population sued last week to block the Trump administration's efforts to weaken the fuel efficiency requirements.

A U.S. draft proposal would freeze these requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than allowing them to increase as previously planned. The is expected to formally unveil the proposal later this month or in June.

The executives of , and Fiat Chrysler, along with senior U.S. executives from <7203.T>, , <005380.KS>, <7201.T>, <7267.T>, and met with Trump, as did the heads of the two trade groups.

"We're really talking about environmental (controls), CAFE standards, and of millions of more cars within the United States," Trump, known for his "America First" policies, said at the top of the meeting, referring to the Corporate Average Fuel standards for cars and light trucks in the

"We're importing a lot of cars, and we want a lot of those cars to be made in the United States," Trump added, specifically mentioning Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and

Automakers want the and California to reach an agreement on maintaining national standards, fearing a prolonged legal battle could leave the companies facing two different sets of rules - and the state level and nationally - and extended uncertainty.

Much of the hour-long meeting focused on NAFTA and other trade issues, with Trump blasting the pact with and

"We're renegotiating it now. We'll see what happens," Trump said, adding that and "don't like to lose the golden goose."

"But NAFTA has been a horrible, horrible disaster for this country, and we'll see if we can make it reasonable," the Republican added.

Automakers have called NAFTA a success, allowing them to integrate production throughout and make production competitive with and They have noted the increase in auto production over the past two decades with NAFTA in place, and have warned that changing it too much could prompt some companies to move production out of the

Major automakers reiterated this week they do not support freezing fuel efficiency requirements but said they want new flexibility and rule changes to address lower gasoline prices and the shift in U.S. consumer preferences to bigger, less fuel-efficient vehicles.

'FULLY SUPPORTIVE'

Fiat Executive Sergio Marchionne, whose company is shifting production of heavy-duty pickup trucks from to in 2020, told before the meeting his company is "fully supportive" of Trump's efforts to revise the mileage rules and hoped for "an agreed way forward."

NAFTA changes proposed by would not require Fiat to end production in Mexico but rather to "redirect" exports of Mexican-built vehicles to other global markets, Marchionne added.

Marchionne said he still hopes the administration will reach a deal with California to maintain nationwide standards and said Trump is an ideal to get an agreement.

Noting that automakers want a deal with California, Democratic U.S. Senator said, "Our and self-proclaimed 'dealmaker' president should be able to take yes for an answer and help us secure a that is well within reach."

U.S. Trade Robert Lighthizer, Elaine Chao, and also attended the meeting. Trump directed and Pruitt to continue administration talks with California to see if a deal can be reached quickly, an auto industry source said.

Democrats and environmental advocates plan to challenge the administration's plans to weaken vehicle rules touted by the as one of its biggest actions to combat climate change by reducing planet-warming emissions.

The plans to argue that freezing the rules would lead to cheaper vehicles, boost sales and employment and improve safety by prodding faster turnover of older vehicles.

The Obama-era rules adopted in 2012 sought to double average fleet-wide vehicle fuel efficiency to about 50 miles (80 km) per gallon by 2025, but included an evaluation due by April 2018 to determine if the rules were appropriate.

(Reporting by in Washington; Additional reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Will Dunham)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, May 12 2018. 02:01 IST
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