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Japan auto group chief says outlook bleak amid US-China spat

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda holds a press conference in his role as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association on May 13, 2019, in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The head of a Japanese auto group said Monday that the outlook for the industry is cloudy due to "too many uncertainties" in the global economy amid the escalating trade spat between the United States and China.

"It is true that protectionist ideas are spreading," Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, told a press conference in Tokyo as the United States' tit-for-tat trade war with China spurs concerns about its potential impact on the global economy and financial markets.

"There is a thick layer of cloud and we still cannot see sunshine," Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., said.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up pressure on China by raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent Friday and threatening to hike tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports if no deal is struck. Beijing responded by pledging to take "necessary countermeasures."

The United States and China have been the top two markets helping the Japanese auto industry to sustain its growth over the past 30 years as the domestic market has shrunk, Toyoda said.

The Japanese auto industry is also bracing for the outcome of trade talks between Tokyo and Washington in which Japan's automobile exports to the United States is a key issue.

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