The U.S. market is under assault from unfairly traded imports of passenger vehicle and light truck tires from China. Following three years of import relief under a now-expired provision of U.S. law, imports into the U.S. soared the last two years, more than doubling. Once again, American workers and communities across the country are paying the price.
In the Sept. 22 issue of Rubber & Plastics News, Walt Weller, vice president of strategic accounts of the Chinese-affiliated China Manufacturers Alliance L.L.C./Double Coin, claims unfair trade practices are not in play in Chinese tire trade with the U.S. He even claims that American workers and their industry are not harmed.
The record clearly belies his assertions.
The United Steelworkers filed antidumping and countervailing duty petitions earlier this year to address the blatantly unfair trade practices that have harmed American workers. In the past decade, eight tire plants have closed and some 10,000 jobs have been lost. Additional plants and good-paying jobs are now in jeopardy.
In response to the voluminous information the USW submitted to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission in the petitions filed earlier this year, Commerce initiated both antidumping and countervailing duty investigations. They found that the petitions reasonably supported concerns that dumping could be at rates as high as 89 percent. Some 40 Chinese government subsidy programs also will be investigated.
Next year, we will have more complete information on dumping levels from the government's investigation. We will await the Commerce Department decisions but are confident that the success of Chinese exports to the U.S. is significantly driven by artificially low prices due to unfair trade practices.
The claims of market segmentation and abandonment that are raised in the article (“Exec: Quality of China tires is improving”) by Mr. Weller are the very same arguments that were rejected by the U.S. government in the prior case on imported passenger vehicle and light truck (PVLT) tires from China. The evidence is in the long list of disputes with China over its violations of international obligations. China has targeted many industries for development, growth and export expansion. The Chinese PVLT tire industry has enjoyed many government incentives and policies to distort global competition.
America cannot be a dumping ground for unfairly traded tires that harm its workers and their companies. If Chinese tires win the competition in a fair and square manner, then there is no need for corrective measures.
American workers make great tires regardless of price point, place of sale, brand or private label. Consumers receive excellent value when they buy American-produced tires. While unfairly traded, imported tires from China may undersell domestic prices, fairly traded ones most often do not.
Additionally, consumers need to look at all value aspects of the tires they buy. It is necessary to consider the safety of the tires along with reliability and durability. We entrust the safety of our families to our vehicles, but they are only as safe as the tires they ride on. When all facts are considered, consumers, workers and communities benefit when we buy American-made tires.
The correct question to ask is not “Why is the USW picking on China”—we are not—but “When will China actually stop its cheating so the trading system can work for all?”
America has lost too many good, family-supportive jobs to unfair trade practices. In the last 20 years, the worst offender has been China and its heavily state-controlled economy. To all the Mr. Wellers out there, don't expect American workers to lose their jobs without a fight. We are happy to compete, but not against foreign treasuries and dumped imports.
We have no other option than to fight for every American job.
United Steelworkers International, secretary-treasurer, former tire worker.