Car Industry

Elon Musk, Trump hash out China auto trade relations on Twitter

The head of Tesla asks the president for fair and equal import and export tariffs for cars with China.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

With Donald Trump talking tariffs on steel as of late, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has instigated a Twitter conversation with the president. His apparent goal? To press the Commander In Chief on auto industry trade imbalances with China.

As outlined on his social media account, Musk's main contention is that the current import/export structure in place with China greatly favors Chinese exports to the US over American exports to China. Musk says that Chinese cars coming into the US are subject to just 2.5 percent import tax, while US cars entering China are subject to a 25 percent tax, making them far less attractive to consumers.

So far, President Trump has not engaged with Musk on the issue, at least on social media.

Despite this apparent imbalance, no Chinese-branded, Chinese-built cars are being imported for sale to American consumers, although some models from US and Sweden-based automakers are imported stateside from The Middle Kingdom. As far as we're aware, GAC plans to be the first Chinese automaker to enter the US market when it begins imports next year.

On Twitter, Musk also states that he previously raised these trade imbalance concerns with the Obama administration, and says that nothing was done. In a plea to Trump, upon whose economic advisory council he once served, Musk asks for a fair outcome where tariffs and rules are equally moderate.

With the Chinese appetite for electric cars having heated up in earnest, it's in Musk's best interest to attempt to equalize the tariffs and duties on Teslas going into the world's largest new car market.