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Turns out renegotiating NAFTA could actually reduce US auto industry jobs

President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to keep auto industry jobs in the United States may have some unintended consequences.

Trump has said he intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement in a bid to keep factories and jobs from moving across the border. But data from the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research suggests a 35 percent tariff on imported vehicles would lead to the loss of 6,700 auto industry jobs in the United States due to higher costs.

The tariff would also reduce the number of total vehicles sold annually in the United States by 450,000.

"It would be a pretty huge impact on the auto industry, and also very geographically focused on certain parts of our auto industry," said Kristin Dzizcek, a Director with the Center for Automotive Research, which is funded by auto manufacturers.

Mexico's auto industry is in the midst of a decade-long boom in production. By the end of 2017, Mexico will build 4.17 Million vehicles, making it the seventh largest country for auto manufacturing in the world.

While vehicles built south of the border are increasingly shipped to countries worldwide, the biggest market for Mexico-made autos is the United States, including 1.8 million in 2015.

"It would be a pretty huge impact on the auto industry, and also very geographically focused on certain parts of our auto industry," said Kristin Dziczek, a director with the Center for Automotive Research, which is funded by auto manufacturers.

Mexico's auto industry is in the midst of a decade-long boom in production. By the end of 2017, Mexico will build 4.17 million vehicles, making it the seventh largest country for auto manufacturing in the world.

While vehicles built south of the border are increasingly shipped to countries worldwide, the biggest market for Mexican-made autos is the United States, including 1.8 million in 2015.

If President-elect Trump starts taxing cars and trucks coming from Mexico, the impact will ripple beyond companies General Motors, Ford, Toyota and virtually every major automaker. Auto parts companies, materials suppliers, and other firms that contribute to the content in vehicles made in Mexico could also take a hit.

"Focusing purely on where the final assembly plant is, I think, displays a lack of knowledge on how the automobile industry actually works," said Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors.

Instead of giving incentives to automakers to keep operations and jobs in the U.S., the unwinding of NAFTA would likely lead to automakers shift production from Mexico to other low-cost countries, including China, India and other parts of Asia.

"If we close off Mexico it becomes a game of Whac-a-Mole," Dziczek said. "Where else do you close off next? Because they are going to move from other places."