Trump meets auto executives to discuss fuel standards

Washington (AFP) –


US President Donald Trump convened the world's most important auto executives at the White House Friday to review plans to rollback fuel emissions standards and to press for increased production on US soil.

Trump also heaped criticism on the North American Free Trade Agreement, the pact currently being rewritten and in which the auto industry features prominently, but gave no hints on whether a deal could be struck by a key deadline next week.

"We have at this table the biggest car manufacturers in the world all represented by their top people," Trump said at the start of the meeting.

Participants included the leaders of Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, as well as top executives BMW, Mercedes Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.

In addition to rules on auto emissions, Trump said the meeting was focused on "how to build more cars in the United States."

"We have great capacity for building. We want a lot of the cars to be made in the United States," the president added.

He singled out Fiat Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne for praise due the company's plans to move production of its popular Dodge Ram truck to back to the US from Mexico.

"Thank you, you're moving to Michigan from Mexico," Trump said. "That's what we like. Right now, he's my favorite man in the room."

FCA announced in January its plan to invest $1 billion in a Michigan assembly plant and create 2,500 jobs.

The White House meeting comes as trade officials from the Canada, Mexico and the US race the clock to reach a deal on a revised NAFTA but are hung up on Washington's demands to increase the US-made components in vehicles that receive duty free status.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would need a written agreement by May 17 in order for Congress to approve a revamped trade pact this year, while Republicans still control the legislature -- something that could change in the November midterm elections.

The Trump administration is also reviewing fuel economy standards imposed at the very end of Barack Obama's administration in January 2017, and automakers have said they support changes.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE standards would require carmakers to reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon (23 kilometers per liter) across all models they produce by 2025, in an effort to significantly reduce oil consumption and the greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

But California has a stricter standard than other states, and carmakers prefer a single national standard.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who has pushed to roll back the tougher rules, also attended the White House meeting.