UPDATE3: Trump targets Toyota over Mexico manufacturing

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump threatened Thursday to impose heavy taxes on Toyota Motor Corp. if the Japanese automaker goes ahead with its plan to produce Corolla cars for the United States in Mexico.

"Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax," Trump said in a post on Twitter.

The threat came after Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in Tokyo earlier in the day that the automaker has no immediate plans to reconsider its envisaged production in Mexico.

It also followed Ford Motor Co.'s cancellation this week of a plan to build a new $1.6 billion factory in Mexico in a move viewed as having taken into consideration Trump's call to abandon the idea and create more jobs in its home market.

Toyota announced in April 2015 that it would spend $1 billion to build a plant in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato with an annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles. It will begin operating in 2019 and employ about 2,000 workers.

In response to Trump's tweet, the automaker said production volume or employment in the United States will not decline because of its planned Mexican facility.

"With more than $21.9 billion direct investment in the U.S., 10 manufacturing facilities, 1,500 dealerships and 136,000 employees, Toyota looks forward to collaborating with the Trump administration to serve in the best interests of consumers and the automotive industry," it added.

Trump's tweet appeared to confuse Toyota's existing plant in Baja California, Mexico, with the planned factory in Guanajuato. The carmaker said in September it plans to boost capacity at the Baja facility that makes pickup trucks.

The new plant will take over production of Corolla passenger cars from Ontario, Canada, which from 2019 will produce midsize, higher-value vehicles instead as Toyota realigns its North American production operations to reinforce its competitiveness in the region.

Since his election in November, Trump has been touting his "America First" economic agenda by pressing companies to keep jobs and production in the United States. He won such key industrial states as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, with promises of protecting jobs.

Trump, who will take office on Jan. 20, has also pledged to slap a 35 percent tariff on any company that moves jobs overseas and then imports products back to the United States.

In addition to Ford and Toyota, he has criticized General Motors Co. for selling a made-in-Mexico version of the Chevrolet Cruze in the United States.

The president-elect has also said he wants to renegotiate terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed with Canada and Mexico, or scrap it altogether.

Under the 1994 pact, no tariffs are imposed on autos and auto parts imported from Mexico and Canada as long as they contain 62.5 percent North American content, according to data from the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

==Kyodo

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