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Elon Musk sides with Trump on trade with China, citing 25% import duty on American cars

Tae Kim
CNBC

Tesla's Elon Musk is complaining to President Donald Trump about China's car tariffs.

"Do you think the US & China should have equal & fair rules for cars? Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints & other factors," Musk said on Twitter in response to a Trump tweet about trade with China. "I am against import duties in general, but the current rules make things very difficult. It's like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes."

The auto executive said China puts a 25 percent import duty on American cars, while the U.S. only does 2.5 percent for Chinese cars. He added that no American car company is "allowed to own even 50% of their own factory" in the Asian country, but China's auto firms can own their companies in the U.S.

Trump responded to Musk's tweets later at his steel and aluminum tariff press conference Thursday.

"We are going to be doing a reciprocal tax program at some point, so that if China is going to charge us 25% or if India is going to charge us 75% and we charge them nothing ... We're going to be at those same numbers. It's called reciprocal, a mirror tax," Trump said after reading Musk's earlier tweets out loud.

The Trump administration has also asked Beijing for a $100 billion reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with the Asian country, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the talks.


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