First it was tires; now it's entire cars. China is investigating sales of GM, Ford (NYSE:F), and Chrysler vehicles.

According to an Associated Press report:

If the investigation concludes that the companies receive government subsidies, or sell products in China at below-market prices, China could slap tariffs on U.S. auto imports. … The trade spats [between the two countries] worsened after the Obama administration last month announced up to 35 percent duties on Chinese-made tires, to be imposed for the next three years.

China's announcement closely follows the U.S. Commerce Department's preliminary announcement of tariffs on Chinese steel products subsidized by that country's government. That's a move steel companies such as U.S. Steel (NYSE:X) -- which petitioned the Commerce Department -- Nucor (NYSE:NUE), and AK Steel (NYSE:AKS) can get behind. American carmakers might not be too upset about a Chinese tariff, either, since they export so few vehicles to China, choosing instead to manufacture them in local factories.

It's no secret that GM and Chrysler received bailout funds, so how long will China's inquiry take? Will the U.S. take the hint and grant China some sort of concession?

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