GM warned Trump that his China tariffs would hurt jobs. He now complains that it's happening.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump railed against GM for cutting jobs, but it’s partly his trade war’s fault.
  • President Donald Trump is railing against GM’s decision to close plants and ax about 14,000 jobs, events triggered in part by his trade war.
  • Though it cited demand and other factors when announcing the latest job cuts, GM warned earlier this year that tariffs would hurt jobs and wages.
  • Trump specifically criticised GM’s decision to idle its plant in Ohio, a state that voted for him in 2016.

US President Donald Trump is railing against General Motors’ decision to close plants and ax about 14,000 jobs, something his trade war helped trigger in the first place.

When listing reasons behind the job cuts on Monday, GM tiptoed around trade policy and blamed a host of other factors. But the company has been much more direct in its criticism of Trump’s trade war in the past.

Earlier this year, GM lowered its profit forecasts for 2018, citing higher steel and aluminium prices caused by new US tariffs. And in June, GM warned that trade tariffs could lead to job losses and lower wages, telling the Commerce Department that higher steel tariffs would affect competitiveness.

The automaker, which employs about 110,000 workers, on Monday said it planned to halt production at a plant in Ohio, a state that voted for Trump in 2016.

GM did not specifically mention tariffs, instead citing “changing market conditions and customer preferences” among the reasons.

While that may be true, “the import tariffs probably accelerated the move,” said Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “GM is eliminating its lower margin passenger vehicles to concentrate on higher-margin products, and the rising cost of steel probably made made those lower margin vehicles even less attractive than they already were.”

Trump lashed out at CEO Mary Barra. “I was very tough,” he said, per CNN. “I spoke with her when I heard they were closing, and I said, you know, this country has done a lot for General Motors. The United States saved General Motors, and for her to take that company out of Ohio is not good.”

Trump said he told the CEO that she had “better” reopen plants in the US soon.

Trump’s trade war shows no signs of abating. He told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that he was likely to go ahead with a hike on tariffs on Chinese goods, increasing them to 25% from 10%. The tariffs have so far hammered global shipping, US farmers, and, perhaps, even iPhone users.

GM on Monday said its Lordstown Assembly plant in Warren, Ohio, would be “unallocated” by the end of 2019, as would its Oshawa Assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit, and its propulsion-component plants in Maryland and Michigan. It also said it would cease operations at two unnamed assembly plants outside the US.

The stock soared 4.8% on Monday’s announcement. On Tuesday, however, GM shares were down 1.5% in premarket trading as of 11 a.m. in London (6 a.m. EST).

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