Trump Tariffs Set Off Industry Scramble for Exemptions

When Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross held up a can of Campbell’s soup in a CNBC interview to make the case that the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs were “no big deal,” the canning industry begged to disagree — and they were hardly alone.

President Donald Trump’s strong-armed trade policies have set off an intense scramble among industry groups, companies and foreign countries seeking exemptions from tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum. The push comes ahead of a round of new penalties expected to be slapped on China by week’s end.

The Can Manufacturers Institute, which represents 22,000 workers at manufacturers across the nation, estimates the steel and aluminum tariffs will harm their industry and consumers alike. The institute says there are 119 billion cans made in the U.S., meaning a 1 cent tariff would lead to a $1.1 billion tax on consumers and businesses.

“Secretary Ross has made cans a poster child to dispel concerns about the costs of tariffs,” said Robert Budway, the institute’s president. He said his organization was concerned Ross “is already predisposed to deny our petitions.”

Trump’s one-two punch on trade has set in motion a deluge of requests to the Commerce Department for exclusions for certain steel and aluminum products. Foreign countries, meanwhile, complain the U.S. trade representative’s office has not provided specific guidance on gaining exemptions before the steel and aluminum tariffs are implemented on Friday.

Countries in the dark

“Typically, the countries are determined before tariffs are announced,” said Josh Zive, senior principal at the law firm Bracewell LLP. This time, countries don’t know whether they will end up being targeted or exempted — “that’s weird and no one knows what to make of it.”

The Trump administration, which has said steel and aluminum imports threaten U.S. national security, has already given Mexico and Canada a reprieve — provided they agree to a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The European Union, South Korea, Australia and Brazil are among the groups and countries seeking the exemptions.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said tariffs are “sometimes necessary tools” to protect national security or fight unfair trade practices. But he said the administration’s approach is producing “chaos, uncertainty and an alienation of our closest allies.”

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said the U.S “is engaged in discussions with several countries to determine if means other than tariffs can be arranged to address our national security concerns.”

Companies that buy imported steel and aluminum can request tariff relief from the Commerce Department, especially if they rely on types of imported steel and aluminum that aren’t available from domestic U.S. producers.

Expect a deluge: Steel and aluminum producers have 30 days to make their exemption requests. Commerce expects 4,500 requests for relief and 1,500 objections — and it is supposed to reach decisions in 90 days.

Commerce has said it intends to reach decisions on a company-by-company basis, not by making across-the-board exemptions for individual steel and aluminum products. That decision has created anxieties that certain companies could get tariff relief while others would be forced to pay tariffs on the same product — perhaps because in the time between the two requests domestic U.S. production has ramped up to fill shortages.

“The big thing is, it’s arbitrary,” said Mary Lovely of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The government is becoming the matchmaker between the purchaser and the supplier.”

“It’s a real question to me whether they understand the magnitude of the requests they are going to get,” Zive said of Commerce. “How they’re going to get through them in 90 days is difficult to understand.”

Industry officials said other aspects of the exemption process will burden companies. Manufacturers are unclear whether companies will qualify for refunds if they end up getting exemptions after they’ve begun paying the tariffs. And since Trump set no timeline for ending the tariffs, the companies will need to reapply for the exemptions annually.

Stocking up

Companies, meanwhile, have been trying to beat the tariffs by stocking up on imports. Steel imports rose 15 percent last year and another 17 percent in January.

The steel and aluminum tariffs may only be the opening salvo.

Administration officials said Trump is expected to announce $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports by Friday on a wide array of consumer goods, from apparel to electronics, and even on imported parts for products made in the U.S.

Ross, appearing before a House budget panel on Tuesday, faced questions about the trade moves, with lawmakers warning the tariffs could lead to retaliation from foreign countries and wreak economic havoc for consumers.

“I worry that now we’re engaged in a trade war which is further going to alienate us from our adversaries,” said Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Representative Derek Kilmer, a Washington state Democrat, noted that the decision to exclude aluminum and steel producers on a company-by-company basis — rather than by individual products — could create the possibility that some companies will gain a huge advantage over their competitors if they win exemptions.

Ross vowed that “the process will be open and transparent” and that Commerce was working to “minimize the amount of inconvenience that any of the affected parties will suffer as a result of the process. We’re gearing up to be fast, to be fair and to be practical.”


G-20 Sees Need for ‘Dialogue,’ Fails to Blunt Trade War Threat

The world’s financial leaders rejected protectionism Tuesday and urged “further dialogue” on trade, but failed to blunt the threat of a trade war days before U.S. metals tariffs take effect and Washington is to announce measures against China.

Finance ministers and central bankers of the world’s 20 biggest economies, which represent 75 percent of world trade and 85 percent of global gross domestic product, discussed trade disruptions as a risk to growth at a two-day meeting.

But after talks described by participants as “polite” and mainly consisting of read-out statements with no debate, the Group of 20 agreed only to stand by an ambiguous declaration on trade from 2017 and “recognize” the need for more “dialogue and actions.”

“We reaffirm the conclusions of our leaders on trade at the Hamburg Summit and recognize the need for further dialogue and actions. We are working to strengthen contribution of trade to our economies,” the G-20 ministers’ final statement said.

But the declaration did little to dispel concern about a global trade war as the U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum take effect Friday.

Tariffs on Chinese products

Two officials briefed on the matter said U.S. President Donald Trump would also unveil tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese technology and telecoms products by Friday, a move stemming from Beijing’s intellectual property practices.

The 2017 Hamburg declaration, which the financial leaders referred to on Tuesday, said G-20 countries would “continue to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices.”

But it also said G-20 leaders “recognize the role of legitimate trade defense instruments,” an ambiguity that provides the United States with a way to argue its cause on the tariffs.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made clear Washington’s tariff action was such a legitimate defense.

“We need to be prepared to act in the U.S. interest, again, to defend free and fair, reciprocal trade,” he said in a news conference after the talks, adding that there was always a risk that others would reciprocate.

“There’s a risk of a trade war. The president has said we’re not afraid of getting into a trade war, given the size of our market, the size of our economy, and the fact that we have a big trade deficit,” Mnuchin said.

“On the steel and aluminum issue, this is a result of unfair trade practices and that’s why we’ve responded that way.”

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau, comparing this G-20 meeting to the one in Germany last year, when Mnuchin demanded a rewrite of the long=standing communique language on trade, said the rest of the world now has a better sense of the U.S. view on how the rules of trade should be reworked.

“There’s not a consensus. Everyone around the table doesn’t have the same point of view, but there’s a greater understanding of what it is they’re trying to achieve,” Morneau said.

Europe ready to retaliate

The European Union, the biggest U.S. trading partner, wants to be exempt from the metals tariffs like Canada and Mexico, but so far has not had any success in securing an exemption.

As a result, the EU is preparing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products such as bourbon, jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

European officials said that a trade war would produce only losers and that the G-20 ministers were united in support of “multilateralism” — G-20 jargon for solving disputes through negotiations in the World Trade Organization.

“We all agreed trade wars are a negative sum game,” Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting. “There hasn’t been any voice against rule-based multilateralism.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire stressed Europe expected to get exemptions from the U.S. tariffs without any conditions and warned protectionism would hurt world growth.

Jeopardy to recovery

“It is of the utmost importance to avoid any unilateral choice that might jeopardize our growth. Unfair trade conditions [and] protectionism might jeopardize the economic recovery all over the world,” he said.

Mnuchin said he’d had very direct conversations with his counterparts in China and that he looked forward to working with Liu He, China’s newly installed, Harvard-educated vice premier in charge of financial and industrial policy, on getting better access to the Chinese market.

“I think there’s a general view among the G-20 that it is our desire to see China open their markets so that we can participate in their markets the way they participate in ours in a much more … reciprocal … relationship,” Mnuchin said.

The G-20 also called for continued international monitoring of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and the risks they posed. It said these assets raised issues with consumer and investor protections, market integrity, money laundering and terrorist financing.


Border Wall, Tunnel Tussle Hold Up Sweeping US Spending Bill

President Donald Trump will reap a huge budget increase for the military while Democrats cement wins on infrastructure and other domestic programs that they failed to get under President Barack Obama if lawmakers can agree on a $1.3 trillion governmentwide spending bill before a deadline this week. 

Battles over budget priorities in the huge bill were essentially settled Tuesday, but a scaled-back plan for Trump’s border wall and a fight over a tunnel under the Hudson River still held up a final agreement. 

Republican leaders were hopeful a deal could be announced as early as Tuesday evening, allowing for a House vote Thursday. If a bill doesn’t pass Congress by midnight Friday, the government will shut down for a third time this year. 

The measure on the table would provide major funding increases for the Pentagon — $80 billion over current limits — bringing the military budget to $700 billion and giving GOP defense hawks a long-sought victory. 

“We made a promise to the country that we would rebuild our military. Aging equipment, personnel shortages, training lapses, maintenance lapses — all of this has cost us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “With this week’s critical funding bill we will begin to reverse that damage.”

Domestic accounts would get a generous 10 percent increase on average as well, awarding Democrats the sort of spending increases they sought but never secured during the Obama administration.

Opioid problem

Democrats touted billions to fight the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic. More than $2 billion would go to strengthen school safety through grants for training, security measures and treatment for the mentally ill. Medical research at the National Institutes of Health, a long-standing bipartisan priority, would receive a record $3 billion increase to $37 billion.

“We have worked to restore and in many cases increase investments in education, health care, opioids, NIH, child care, college affordability and other domestic and military priorities,” said Senator Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat who has been a key negotiator of the measure.

Agencies historically unpopular with Republicans, such as the Internal Revenue Service, appear likely to get increases, too, in part to prepare for implementation of Trump’s recently passed tax measure. The Environmental Protection Agency, always a GOP target, may get a reprieve this year.

Lawmakers agreed on the broad outlines of the budget plan last month, after a standoff forced an overnight shutdown. The legislation implementing that deal is viewed as possibly one of few bills moving through Congress this year, making it a target for lawmakers and lobbyists seeking to attach their top priorities. 

But efforts to add on unrelated legislation to tackle politically charged issues, such as immigration and rapidly rising health insurance premiums, appeared to be faltering.

Dreamer measure

An effort to extend protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants brought to the country as children appears to have failed. Democrats seemed likely to yield on $1.6 billion in wall funding as outlined in Trump’s official request for the 2018 budget year, but they were digging in against Trump’s plans to hire hundreds of new Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents.

A dispute over abortion seemed likely to scuttle a Senate GOP plan to provide billions in federal subsidies to insurers to help curb health insurance premium increases.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was working on Trump’s behalf against funding for a Hudson River tunnel and rail project that’s important to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Republicans from New York and New Jersey.

The bill would implement last month’s budget agreement, adding $143 billion over limits set under a 2011 budget and debt pact that forced automatic budget cuts on annual agency appropriations. Coupled with last year’s tax cuts, it heralds the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits as soon as the budget year starting in October.

Republican conservatives are dismayed by the free-spending measure, meaning Democratic votes are required to pass it. That gave Democrats leverage to force GOP negotiators to drop numerous policy riders that Democrats considered poison pills.

Ryan said negotiations were ongoing about adding a widely backed measure that aims to strengthen federal background checks by prodding states to provide all records that disqualify people with severe mental health problems and other issues from buying firearms.

Grain sales subsidies

Republicans continued to press to fix a glitch in the recent tax bill that subsidizes grain sales to cooperatives at the expense of for-profit grain companies, lawmakers said.

“We need to fix that problem,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican. Schumer was demanding a provision of his own — tax subsidies to construct low-income housing — in exchange, lawmakers said.

The president, meanwhile, has privately threatened to veto the whole package if a $900 million payment is made on the Hudson River Gateway Project. Trump’s opposition is alarming Northeastern Republicans such as Representative Peter King of New York, who lobbied Trump on the project at a St. Patrick’s luncheon in the Capitol last week.

The Gateway Project would add an $11 billion rail tunnel under the Hudson River to complement deteriorating, century-old tunnels that are at risk of closing in a few years. The project enjoys bipartisan support among key Appropriations panel negotiators on the omnibus measure who want to get the expensive project on track while their coffers are flush with money.

“I think we ought to get it done and it has good bipartisan support,” Schumer said. “I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth with the president. This is a needed project, and I hope Congress rises to the occasion.”


US States Fight Trump Drill Plan With Local Bans

Some coastal states opposed to President Donald Trump’s plan to allow oil and gas drilling off most of the nation’s coastline are fighting back with proposed state laws designed to thwart the proposal.


The drilling Trump proposes would take place in federal waters offshore in an area called the Outer Continental Shelf. But states control the 3 miles of ocean closest to shore and are proposing laws designed to make it difficult, or impossible, to bring the oil or gas ashore in their areas.


A look at the issue:


What States Are Doing


States including New Jersey, New York, California, South Carolina and Rhode Island have introduced bills prohibiting any infrastructure related to offshore oil or gas production from being built in or crossing their state waters. Washington state is threatening such a bill. Maryland has introduced a bill imposing strict liability on anyone who causes a spill while engaged in offshore drilling or oil or gas extraction.


“We started thinking about how we control the first three miles of ocean, and there are state rights that we have,” said New Jersey state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat who represents the state’s southern coast. “Even if we don’t succeed in banning it outright, we can still make it a lot more expensive to do it in this area. It’s a back-door, ingenious way to block this.”


California Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said a ban on pipelines and docks could force the industry to rely on ships that would then have to sail to the waters of a different state to bring their cargo ashore. “What we can do is make drilling for offshore oil and gas so prohibitively expensive that it won’t pencil out,” she said.


Any Precendent?


In 1985, voters in Santa Cruz, California, required that any zoning changes to accommodate onshore facilities for offshore oil exploration or production must be approved by a vote of the electorate, one of 26 similar ordinances that were adopted in California. An oil and gas industry association unsuccessfully sued 13 of the communities, claiming they were interfering with lawful interstate commerce.


Oil Industry, U.S. Response


Andy Radford, a senior policy adviser with the American Petroleum Institute, said it has been 30 years since the last detailed analysis of potential offshore oil and gas supplies. He said states ought to welcome offshore drilling for the revenue it can produce for them. Offshore energy production in the Atlantic Ocean alone could support 265,000 jobs and generate $22 billion a year within 20 years, he said.


“We should take that step forward to advance our energy future,” he said. “Local communities and workers benefit from energy exploration and production, in addition to these investments generating significant state revenues to fund schools, hospitals and other public services.”


Connie Gillette, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said “the laws, goals, and policies” of a state adjacent to the Outer Continental Shelf are among the factors the federal government must consider in approving oil and gas leases.


Conflicted in South Carolina


In May 2017, eight months before Trump proposed the nearly nationwide expansion of offshore drilling, a South Carolina legislator introduced a bill to prohibit oil drilling infrastructure in state waters. The bill remains in committee.


South Carolina’s House and Senate both introduced a resolution expressing support for drilling off their state’s coast and criticizing Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s request to be exempted from the plan, saying the request is “tantamount to the state exercising excessive control of South Carolina’s free market.”


Cuba Opens Wholesale Market to Sell Basic Staples

Cuba has opened up its first wholesale market in an economy dominated by government-run enterprises.


State-run newspaper Granma says the market is part of an ongoing effort to “reorganize” commerce on the communist island. The market will sell beans, beer, sugar, cigars and other basic staples for 20 to 30 percent less than the products are sold throughout the country.


Since 2010, the government has authorized about 500,000 people to operate private businesses, and many of them have long-sought access to a wholesale marketplace. Their wait is not over. The government says the market known as the Mercabal is only open to 35 worker-owned cooperatives in Havana, at least for now.


The state-run economy accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the Cuban economy.


New York Councilman Investigating Kushner Real Estate Company

A New York City councilman and a tenants’ rights group said they will investigate allegations that the real estate company formerly controlled by Jared Kushner, a presidential adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, falsified building permits.

In allegations first uncovered by The Associated Press, the Kushner Companies is accused of submitting false statements between 2013 and 2016, stating it had no rent-controlled apartments in buildings it owned when it actually had hundreds.

Rent-controlled apartments come under tighter oversight from city officials when there is construction work or renovations in buildings. 

The councilman and tenants’ rights group charged the Kushner Companies of lying about rent-control in order to harass and force out tenants paying low rents so it can move in those who would pay more.

They also blame city officials for allegedly being unaware what Kushner was up to.

Rent control is a fixture in many big U.S. cities, where the government regulates rent to help make housing more affordable.

Some tenants in Kushner-owned buildings told the AP that the landlord made their lives a “living hell,” with loud construction noise, drilling, dust and leaking water. They said they believe they were part of a campaign of targeted harassment by the Kushner Companies to get them to leave.

The company denies intentionally falsifying documents in an effort to harass tenants. In a news release Monday, the company called the investigation an effort to “create an issue where none exists.”

“If mistakes or typographical errors are identified, corrective action is taken immediately with no financial benefit to the company,” it said.

The company also said it contracted out the preparation of such documents to a third party and that the faulty paperwork was amended. 

Kushner stepped down as head of his family’s company before becoming presidential adviser. But the AP said he still has a financial stake in a number of properties.


Indonesia to Effectively Continue Fuel Subsidy

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed ministers to keep fuel prices stable over the next two years, said Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan, which would, in effect, continue a controversial fuel subsidy scheme that analysts say has negatively impacted growth and the environment. 

The Ministry said it would increase the per-liter subsidy for diesel and regular petrol from 500 Indonesian rupiah (about $0.35) to 700-1000 rupiah ($0.49-$0.70) while keeping pump prices unchanged.

The measure indicates how protectionist measures have been hard to shake for the initially reform-minded Jokowi, who made several inroads against subsidies in 2014 and 2015. 

Meanwhile, the rupiah continues to sink in the global market, due in part to Indonesia’s widening current-account deficit. On Monday, Credit Suisse said “the rupiah is among the most vulnerable emerging market currencies in Asia.”

Political Context

“Subsidizing fuel does tend to exacerbate currency depreciation, because the bulk of Indonesia’s petrol is imported,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a veteran Indonesian political analyst. “Fixed retail prices cause over-consumption, as the price remains the same even though the currency is declining; ordinarily, what should happen is that petrol prices rise as the currency declines, thereby discouraging consumption of the imports.”

In 2014, the year he was elected president, Jokowi raised fuel prices and capped the diesel subsidy within months of taking office. Last year he also pushed to phase out electricity subsidies, but was already facing pushback from consumers amid rising inflation. Consumer expectations are perhaps looming larger now that he is in the latter half of his term, and gearing up for a competitive reelection campaign in 2019. 

“Widodo hopes to keep retail prices stable through the April 2019 election, despite the gap between the Indonesia Crude Price (ICP) and the budget’s oil price assumption,” said O’Rourke. “Ostensibly, this subsidization aims to preserve consumer purchasing power; in reality, Widodo clearly hopes to avoid sacrificing popularity ahead of his re-election bid.” Ironically, he said, artificially low fuel prices end up creating inflation anyway, since people tend to then over-consume imported petrol, which further sinks the rupiah.

The subsidy may also imperil Indonesia’s public transport ambitions, said Jakarta-based energy policy researcher Lucky Lontoh. “Jokowi’s massive infrastructure development actually was started with a fuel subsidy reduction back in 2014, which freed some fiscal space needed to fund the infrastructure projects. More subsidies means the government will have less money to fund other development activities.” 

Environmental Impact

Fuel subsidies are considered a regressive form of spending because their benefits are captured by people wealthy enough to drive and own vehicles, said Paul Burke, an economist at Australian National University who focuses on energy and transportation. 

But they also aggravate traffic jams — including in cities like the notoriously traffic-choked Jakarta — air pollution, and oil dependence, said Burke, citing a recent paper he authored on the topic. 

Burke said Indonesia’s substantial progress on electricity subsidies are a hopeful sign and possible roadmap for fuel subsidy reform. 

“Over recent years, Indonesia has achieved substantial success in reducing electricity subsidies, by increasing some electricity tariffs to cost-reflective levels,” he said. “Poor households are among those that have been exempted from the reforms… [which] have made an important contribution to improving the efficiency of Indonesia’s electricity use. As electricity prices have increased, electricity use has shifted to a lower-growth trajectory. This has helped Indonesia to avoid the need to build too many expensive new power stations.”

In the fuel realm, Burke said a reform option that economists often suggest is a “fuel excise,” which is a tax on the sale of fuel and the opposite of a fuel subsidy. “Fuel excise would be a progressive form of revenue raising, would help to reduce pollution and traffic jams, and would help Indonesia reduce its budget deficit and fund key priorities.”

Fossil fuel subsidies have existed in Indonesia since its independence in 1949 and, per the International Energy Agency, accounted for nearly 20 percent of fiscal expenditure by the 1960’s. In that context, the reforms of modern-day Indonesia and the Jokowi administration are not inconsiderable: by 2014, about 3 percent of the GDP was spent on fossil fuel subsidies, and by 2016, after Jokowi’s initial spate of reforms, it was less than 1 percent. 

But, due to consumer expectations, the political climate, and the unique challenges of the fuel industry — Indonesia both has a lot of natural resources itself and a burgeoning consumer class — the current subsidy apparatus may prove sticky for the near future. 


US Investigates Deaths in Hyundai-Kia Cars When Air Bags Failed

Air bags in some Hyundai and Kia cars failed to inflate in crashes and four people are dead. Now the U.S. government’s road safety agency wants to know why.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s investigating problems that affect an estimated 425,000 cars made by the Korean automakers. The agency also is looking into whether the same problem could happen in vehicles made by other companies.

In documents posted on its website Saturday , the safety agency says the probe covers 2011 Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts. The agency says it has reports of six front-end crashes with significant damage to the cars. Four people died and six were injured.

Electrical circuits 

The problem has been traced to electrical circuit shorts in air bag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA now wants to know if other automakers used the same computer.

On Feb. 27, Hyundai recalled nearly 155,000 Sonatas because of air bag failures, which the company blamed on the short circuits.Hyundai’s sister automaker Kia, which sells similar vehicles, has yet to issue a recall.

In a statement Saturday, Kia said that it has not confirmed any air bag non-deployments in its 2002-2013 Kia Forte models arising from “the potential chip issue.” The company said it will work with NHTSA investigators.

“Kia will act promptly to conduct a safety recall, if it determines that a recall would be appropriate,” the company said.

But a consumer complaint cited in NHTSA’s investigation documents said Kia was informed of a crash near Oakland in which air bags failed to deploy and a passenger was killed.

In October 2015, the complainant told NHTSA that a 2012 Forte was involved in a serious front-end crash that occurred in July 2013. A passenger was killed and the driver was injured. According to the complaint, Kia was notified, the air bag computer was tested and it was “found not to be working.”

Kia spokesman James Bell said he could not comment beyond the company’s statement.

Hyundai recall

In addition, no deaths or injuries were disclosed in Hyundai’s recall documents, which were posted by NHTSA in early March.

Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor says the problem occurred in rare high-speed head-on collisions that were offset from the center of the vehicles. “It’s very unusual to have that kind of collision,” he said Saturday.

Dealers will consider offering loaner cars to owners until the problem can be repaired, he said. “We certainly would do everything we can to help our customers,” Trainor said.

Hyundai said in a statement that the air bag control circuitry was damaged in three crashes and a fourth crash is under investigation.

ZF-TRW said in a statement that it is prevented by confidentiality agreements from identifying other automakers that bought its air bag control computers. The company said it is working with customers and supports the NHTSA investigation.

According to NHTSA, Hyundai investigated and found the problem was “electrical overstress” in the computers. The company didn’t have a fix developed at the time but said it was investigating the problem with ZF-TRW. Hyundai does not yet have a fix for the problem but said it expects the Sonata recall to start April 20. The problem also can stop the seat belts from tightening before a crash.

In the documents, NHTSA said it understands that the Kia Fortes under investigation use similar air bag control computers made by ZF-TRW. The agency noted a 2016 recall involving more than 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler cars and SUVs that had a similar problem causing the air bags not to deploy. Agency documents show those vehicles had air bag computers made by ZF-TRW.


Merkel, Xi Agree to Work on Steel Overcapacity Within G-20

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday discussed overcapacity in world steel markets and agreed to work on

solutions within the framework of the Group of 20 industrialized nations, Merkel’s spokesman said.

The two leaders emphasized close ties between the two countries, which are both facing planned U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, and agreed to deepen the strategic partnership between them, Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

He said Merkel invited Chinese officials to visit Berlin for consultations, and Xi invited Merkel to visit China.

They also discussed the situation in North Korea regarding its nuclear and missile development efforts.