The European automotive OEMs' trade association, ACEA, has used the Geneva Show to offer a stout defence of international trade in the automotive industry.

It said in a statement that it was a reaction to 'recent discussions on possible tariffs on EU car imports to the United States by putting the trade relations between the two regions in context'.

"ACEA's members are global companies, and international trade is an important pillar of the European automobile industry's competitiveness," said ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert. "Indeed, EU and US carmakers have been integrated for decades."  ACEA said it therefore supports trade that is both free and fair, and respect for the international trade rules upon which these principles are based.

The trade association also pointed out that EU-US auto-related trade currently accounts for some 10% of total trade between the two regions. ACEA maintains that the US is the third biggest exporter of cars to the EU in terms of value, representing a 15.4% share of EU imports in 2017. The US is the number one destination of EU car exports both in terms of units (with a 20.4% share of EU exports in 2017) and of value (29.3% share).

Jonnaert added: "It is important to note that European manufacturers do not only import vehicles into the US, but that they have a major manufacturing footprint there, providing significant local employment and generating tax revenue. Indeed, some European manufacturers have their biggest plants not in the EU, but in the US."

During discussions about a possible free trade agreement between the EU and the US, the so-called TTIP, manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic agreed that the elimination of tariffs and of non-tariff barriers through regulatory convergence would enable the automobile sector to lower costs and improve efficiency, while upholding high safety and environmental standards.

VDA weighs in, too

Bernhard Mattes, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), also highlighted the German auto industry's concerns. "We are watching the current developments with great concern," he said. "Punitive duties cannot be the solution. A trade war between the US and Europe must be avoided at all costs. In such a trade war, there are only losers, on all sides."

BMW has highlighted its considerable contribution to the US economy via its Spartanburg plant which is the global centre for its SUVs. The company says that the high proportion of exports from its US plant makes it the biggest exporter - by value - of American-built vehicles.