Washington —Nearly 80 House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama touting the importance of Japanese automakers and dealers to the U.S. economy as the administration works to negotiate a 12-nation free trade agreement.
Reps. Pete P. Gallego, D-Texas, and Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., wrote the letter, which said, “Congress and the administration must continue to foster a business climate that promotes the United States as a premier location for global companies to build, sell and export their products.”
It was signed by 79 House members. No member of Congress from Michigan signed the letter.
“We wanted to remind the president of the significant contributions these automakers and dealers make to our nation’s economy each day,” Nunnelee said. “In Mississippi alone, Japanese automotive investment has created thousands of jobs.”
The letter is a “result of lobbying efforts by Japanese automakers to ramp up its engagement with Congress in the trade talks, though Japanese auto executives have been holding meetings on Capitol Hill on the issue over the last year.
Japanese automakers’ clout on Capitol Hill has grown during the last decade as they have added factories and other facilities across the country, while Detroit’s Big Three were forced to close dozens of plants — and largely exited operations in many states.
“For 40 years international automakers have been making major investments in the U.S., and today have become a significant and integral part of the U.S. economy,” said Michael Stanton, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers.
Detroit’s Big Three automakers — especially Ford Motor Co. — and the United Auto Workers have worked hard to try to keep Japan out of the talks. Now the U.S. auto industry has been working to keep tariffs in place on Japanese imports and insists on tough provisions it says are necessary to open the Japanese market to more U.S. exports.
The letter said over the past 50 years, Japanese automakers have invested $47.1 billion in 29 plants around the country, creating 76,000 jobs. If you include employees at Japanese brand dealerships, Japanese automakers account for 419,000 U.S. jobs.
Last month, a bipartisan group of 60 U.S. senators urged the Obama administration to address foreign currency manipulation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.
Led by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the senators want the U.S. to include the issue of currency valuation in the 12-nation trade talks, which would create the second largest free trade zone in the world.
Matt Blunt, president and CEO of the American Automotive Policy Council, the trade group representing General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, said in July that U.S. automakers will not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership without dramatic changes and assurances on currency and access to the market.
Earlier this month, the 12 nations released a statement on the talks, but unlike prior communications, didn’t say they plan to reach a deal by the end of the year.