WASHINGTON (Sept. 3, 2009)—A coalition of nearly 100 organizations—including the United Steelworkers, the AFL-CIO, and various steel manufacturing, farming and textile interests—has written President Barack Obama, urging him to approve tariffs on imports of Chinese passenger and light truck tires.
“Congress intended a presumption in favor of providing relief in cases, like this one, where market disruption has been found,” wrote David Hartquist, executive director of the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws, in his Sept. 1 letter to President Obama.
“Strong enforcement will send the much needed signal to China that the United States will uphold the rule of law in the trade arena and will also tell the American people that you will fulfill your campaign promise to fully enforce U.S. trade laws,” Hartquist wrote.
The USW petitioned the International Trade Commission for help last April under Section 421 of the Trade Act, which is designed to help U.S. industries that suffer market disruption because of increased Chinese imports.
Skyrocketing Chinese tire imports—from just under 15 million in 2004 to more than 46 million in 2008—caused the U.S. tire manufacturing industry to lose more than 5,000 jobs during those years and promised to end 3,000 more jobs in 2009, the USW told the ITC.
On June 18, the commission voted 4-2 to find market disruption in the U.S. tire industry caused by Chinese imports. On June 29 it voted to recommend tariffs against Chinese tire imports of 55 percent the first year, 45 percent the second and 35 percent the third.
In his letter to the president, Hartquist noted that President Bush rejected four ITC Section 421 recommendations for trade remedies during his two terms in office.
“We write to underscore both the importance of Section 421 as a legitimate trade remedy, and to respectfully urge its application,” Hartquist wrote. “This case is being watched closely to see whether Section 421 is an effective law or a dead issue.”
Besides the USW and AFL-CIO, members of the CSUSTL include U.S. Steel, the Steel Manufacturers Association, Manufacturers for Fair Trade, the National Textile Association and the National Farmers Union.
Besides the CSUSTL, more than 30 members of Congress have stated publicly their support for tire tariffs, according to the USW.
Harold Meyerson, op-ed writer for the Washington Post, also wrote in favor of the tariffs in the paper's Sept. 2 issue. “Endorsing the ITC's recommendation would not only honor (President Obama's) campaign promises and fulfill the mandates of our trade laws, but would also allow him to rescue the very Americans who, rightly or wrongly, have felt left out of his efforts to save the nation's economy,” Meyerson wrote.
The Tire Industry Association, major tire retailers and distributors, and tire manufacturers such as Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Toyo Tire U.S.A. Inc. oppose the tariffs. Such duties would disrupt the U.S. tire market far more than anything they were supposed to correct, they said.