The weekend was a big one for Chinese autos -- and possibly the future of U.S. trade and European business with that nation.
Three potentially major events occurred over the weekend: A report revealed a slowdown in monthly car sales in China, a group of major automakers in China and Europe said they're agreeing on strengthening ties, and a report from the U.S. Commerce Department reportedly handed over to President Donald Trump could spur additional fees on U.S. imports of autos and parts. All events came as the White House's March tariff deadline on Chinese imports closed in.
The latest news was that Chinese sales of passenger cars fell in January 17.7% from the same time last year, reported the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Sales of all automobiles fell over the same time to around 2.37 million units -- 15.8% drop in sales volume from the same period in 2017.
"Car sales in January continued to decline, and there was no sign of improvement. We estimate that February wholesales will also drop sharply" Xu Haidong, the assistant secretary general of the association, told Reuters.
Also on Sunday, a Commerce Department report was delivered to the White House that could let Trump justify threatening new tariffs on imported cars and trucks and their parts, reported Reuters, which said the document may not be released to the public. The report could possibly influence U.S. fees on autos from Japan, the European Union and South Korea, according to Reuters.
Also, as the March deadline looms for tariff talks between Beijing and the White House, major European and Chinese automobile makers "pledged to strengthen their collaboration" at a summit in Brussels, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association and the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers, which signed a cooperation agreement on Feb. 15.
The two economic powerhouses will focus on "harmonization" of auto standards and regulations, as well as so-called "new energy" vehicles and their charging and refueling infrastructure, internet-connected and automated driving, and emission standards and testing for CO2 and pollutants, according to the two groups.
The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association members include BMW Group, CNH Industrial, DAF Trucks, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford of Europe, Honda Motor Europe, Hyundai Motor Europe, Jaguar Land Rover, PSA Group, Renault Group, Toyota Motor Europe, Volkswagen Group, Volvo Cars, and Volvo Group. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers has more than 2,000 members.
Together China and the EU make up nearly half the world's car sales and production.
Their collaboration comes as the U.S. is threatening to raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 25% from 10% by March if the two nations can't reach a deal.
Over the weekend Trump claimed on Twitter that the two nations have made progress on a deal.