News 06 June 2019

VW and Toyota 4x4s the latest threat to US national security?

Economic integration has emboldened some foreign nations to behave in ways that undermine our national security, expecting that the threat of retaliation will weaken our resolve to act – they’ve increased illicit procurement, weaponised dual use items and transhipped those items to terrorist regimes.’

So said Nazak Nikakhtar, Donald Trump’s nominee for the post of Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, in her confirmatory hearing before the US Senate Committee, during which Nikakhtar, currently Acting Under Secretary, emphasised her legal and economic credentials (and patriotism) as commending her for the role.

Nikakhtar’s standing was itself arguably undermined by the failure thus far of the Trump administration to publish the Department of Commerce report commissioned by the president into whether imported cars pose a ‘national security’ threat which would justify the imposition of tariffs.

Questioning Ms. Nikakhtar (who was instrumental in conducting the report), Senator Pat Toomey pointed out that the findings remained ‘secret’ and had yet to be revealed to Congress and to US citizens, a state of affairs he described as ‘highly objectionable’.

He said: ‘If Toyota and Volkswagen really pose a threat that is so great that we have to tax my constituents when they purchase one, I really think we have to know why…The post to which you have been nominated has a strong national security component. Your signature recent effort in this space is that report. And it’s hard for me to understand how senators can judge your effort without being able to read it.’

Nikakhtar said the report was currently sitting with the president.

Introducing Ms Nikakhtar to the Committee, its chair Mike Crapo noted:

‘She is currently serving as the Acting Under Secretary, evaluating and promulgating effective regulation of emerging U.S. technologies. She comes to the Bureau of Industry and Security from her role as Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis for the International Trade Administration, or ITA. While at ITA, she worked on policies to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. companies globally. Previously, she was a trade attorney at several high-profile Washington law firms and an industry analyst at the Bureau of Industry and Security.’