WASHINGTON — The U.S. International Trade Commission plans to continue an investigation into alleged dumping of Chinese off-the-road tires into the U.S., potentially moving toward the imposition of duties on some OTR tires imported from that country.
ITC commissioners voted 6-0 Aug. 20 on the matter, paving the way for the U.S. Commerce Department to conduct further investigations into the importing of selected OTR tires from China.
The agency concluded that "there is a reasonable indication that an industry in the U.S. is materially injured or treated with material injury by reason of imports of certain off-the-road tires from China that are allegedly subsidized and sold in the U.S. at less than fair value."
The process began with an antidumping and countervailing duty petition, jointly filed June 18 by specialty tire manufacturer Titan International Inc. and the United Steelworkers. The petition claims that the OTR tires — used on vehicles or equipment for agricultural, construction and industrial applications — from China are being subsidized and dumped in the U.S. and asks the government to set duties to offset the imports.
In early August, the Commerce Department initiated investigations into the matter.
The scope of the investigation is on OTR tires used on vehicles and equipment with rim diameters less than 39 inches, the ITC said. The USW joining Titan in the matter helps speed up the process because the union represents about 70 percent of the domestic OTR tire work force-or more than 5,500 workers-at plants run by Titan, Bridgestone/Firestone, Denman Tire Corp. and Goodyear.
Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan chairman and CEO, said the company was encouraged by the ITC vote, but admitted that there is a "long way to go."
"The important part of this whole process is determining what is fair and lawful," Taylor said. "The American working men and women can be as competitive as anyone on the world, but when foreign governments subsidize and carry unlawful trade practices, then the U.S. government must even the playing field."
China is the single largest source of OTR tire imports, according to data from the USW, accounting for more than 83 percent of total imports by volume in 2006. Titan has a goal of producing more than $200 million in OTR tires this year.
The ITC, in an agency document dated Aug. 27, said "final phase investigations" had begun in the case. During this next step, the Commerce Department will set up a task force and continue the information-gathering process, including examining customs lists and comparing pricing in China and the U.S., Taylor said.
"We believe they´re ripping off their customers over there, yet freezing out companies like ours," he said. "I´m sure we could run them out of business if we could send our products to China. But we want this to be fair for both sides."
If the Titan/USW petition ultimately prevails, duties would be placed on Chinese imports, Taylor said. But the decision also could deter the Chinese from sending their OTR tires here, he theorized. "They may say it´s not worth it."
A public report of the initial investigation from the ITC will be available after Sept. 17, the agency said. Taylor said he didn´t know exactly when further determinations would be made, but it could be as early as this fall.