"China will pay close attention to the progress of the US investigation, conduct a comprehensive assessment of the possible impact and firmly defend our legitimate rights and interests", Gao told reporters at a news conference.
The White House said in a statement that the president had asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider whether the imports of automobiles, including trucks, and automotive parts threaten USA national security. Eighteen minutes later, Ross said he had done so.
The Journal, citing sources in the auto industry, said the US' moves to retaliate likely would face significant opposition from trading partners and auto dealers that sell imports.
Section 232 was the section Trump used to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports back in March. Formal re-negotiations between Canada, Mexico and the United States have been ongoing since last summer.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the European Union should be united in its response to the threat of US tariffs.
Auto trade has been a big sticking point in talks between the United States, Mexico and Canada as they try to update NAFTA.
The US president told his core supporters on Twitter that the hard times for US autoworkers would soon be over. The move comes amid an easing of trade tensions between the US and China.
Last year, the USA imported $43B worth of cars from Canada, $39B from Japan, $30B from Mexico, $21B from Germany, $16B from South Korea.
"They have been taking advantage of the United States for a long time".
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BMW's 10,000-employee plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is its biggest worldwide. Mexicans past year purchased nearly $19 billion of American corn, dairy and soybean products. He then determines the final tariff figure, if any.
"As a global manufacturer, Geely Holding Group is in favor of free trade and open markets". "He is clearly abusing this national security law simply to get his tariff fix". "We don't have a shortage; our companies are not now in trouble; and there are plenty of alternative sources from reliable allied suppliers. Pursuing that case would make a mockery of the provision".
David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada, which represents Japanese auto manufacturers Honda and Toyota, says the news is "perplexing" because tariffs would make cars more expensive in the United States, hurting the USA consumers Trump wants to protect.
Kristin Dziczek, the vice president of Industry, Labor & Economics at the Center for Automotive Research, said automakers would be slow to adjust their own investment decisions until they see how any potential tariff decisions might come to pass.
Trump has sought to overhaul NAFTA in an effort to return auto production to the United States and reduce America's trade deficit.
"One-sided protectionism has never helped anyone in the long term. This path leads inevitably to fewer choices and higher prices for cars and trucks in America".
The auto industry has been a focus of the president.
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In March, he threatened to hit European carmakers with tariffs if the European Union did not lower barriers to USA vehicles. At the same time, the United States exported almost 2m vehicles worldwide, worth $57bn.
Audi and Porsche export large quantities of vehicles to the American market.
The risk of tariffs is not just a problem for German carmakers, with shares in France's PSA Group and Renault also falling by more than 1 percent.