WASHINGTON (April 20, 2009)—The United Steelworkers union has filed a trade petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking the government to limit the surging number of consumer tires being imported annually from China.
The USW claims that the flood of imported tires from China have led to more than 4,000 job losses in the past five years and six plant closings, including two announced in the past four months. The union said China exported in 2008 nearly 46 million consumer tires—up from 14 million in 2004—with a value of more than $1.7 billion—up from $453 million in 2004—to the U.S.
The union is seeing an import quota of 21 million passenger, light truck, minivan and sport-utility vehicle tires per year from China, which would return the number of imports the 2005 level. Over a three-year period, the quota would rise 5 percent to just above 22 million tires in year two and again in year three to slightly above 23 million.
The USW is basing its case on Section 421, added in 2000, of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, which allows U.S. industries and workers to obtain product-specific import relief from sharp increases in imports from China while the country transitions from a non-market economy to a market economy. The section—which expires in 2013—was intended to provide expedited consideration of claims, and the USW is counting on the speedy process to help save a “collapsing” domestic tire industry, it said.
Under Section 421, the ITC has 60 days to determine if consumer tire imports from China are causing market disruption to domestic producers, via its six-member commission. If it decides yes, it will make remedy recommendations to President Obama, who would have 70 days to decide whether to grant relief. The process is likely to carry into September.