AKRON—The United Steelworkers union achieved a victory in its mission to gain relief from the influx of tires imported from China, but what comes next for the group on the tire front is uncertain.
In June 2014, the USW petitioned the International Trade Commission for relief from Chinese-made tires under Sections 701 and 731 of the Trade Act, claiming that Chinese tire imports to the U.S. skyrocketed after the Section 421 tariffs lapsed in 2012. The ITC came to the decision July 14 that the U.S. tire manufacturing industry had suffered material injury because of passenger and light truck imports from China, finalizing the antidumping and countervailing duties levied by the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 12.
With that stage in the USW's quest for fair trade practices coming to a close, the union will continue to monitor developments in the antidumping and countervailing cases to “ensure that evasion is stopped and that U.S. workers receive the full benefit of the relief that is intended,” according to USW Communications Director Wayne Ranick.
“We are pushing the administration to develop better information and procedures that will allow earlier action to stop unfair trade before it decimates domestic production and employment,” he said.
At the moment, Ranick said, there is no additional legislation under consideration by the USW related to the tire segment, but it will continue to follow developments in the industry.
“The USW regularly monitors import trends on products relevant to its members in all areas and works with management of companies or proceeds itself where it is appropriate,” he said. “We are currently involved in a wide range of investigations involving tires, paper, steel and other products.”
The USW represents about 850,000 workers in North America employed in various industries, such as metals, rubber, chemicals, paper and oil refining, as well as the service and public sectors.
“We are confronted with import trends on many products that flow from beggar-thy-neighbor policies by certain trading partners who have provided massive subsidies to grow and dominate global trade in various products and have distorted global markets by having massive amounts of excess capacity,” Ranick added. “These are issues that should be addressed by the government and not left to the workers to address on a product by product basis.”
So far, the duties have had a noticeable impact on imports from China, but there are still areas of concern, the USW said.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, imports of Chinese passenger and light truck tires have plummeted 49.6 and 58.2 percent, respectively, in the first six months of 2015 vs. 2014.
Overall, light truck tire imports to the U.S. dropped 17.7 percent during the period, but passenger tire imports increased marginally, as the decline in Chinese products was mitigated by double-digit percentage growth from countries such as South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada and others.
Imports of medium truck tires, which are not addressed under the antidumping and countervailing duties, grew at the fastest rate during the same period with a 17 percent increase. Chinese-made tires accounted for nearly two-thirds of medium/heavy truck tire imports and nearly half of the U.S. replacement market.
Asked whether the USW might pursue duties against Chinese-made truck tires, Ranick deferred comment, as petitioning for relief from material injury caused by import goods can be an arduous process.
“Unfortunately, the way our trade laws are designed, you can only win by losing,” he said. “Even when you can prove that another country is breaking the rules and engaging in unfair trade, you also have to prove that you are being injured. While the laws have been updated recently, it is still a process that requires you to show job and wage losses as well as other factors to get relief.
He said too many producers in this sector and others have operations in China and elsewhere around the globe and are worried about retaliation, adding that this was the first dumping/countervailing case where the union had to go it alone.
Though several tire makers and dealers criticized the USW's previous efforts to levy tariffs against Chinese tire importers, Ranick claimed those tariffs proved to be effective.
“The 421 relief resulted in a rebound in employment and production in the U.S., despite the closure of additional plants that had been announced before the 421 relief went into effect,” he said. “Indeed, as the USW reviewed during the final injury hearing, 421 relief changed the trend line for domestic production and imports and resulted in a regaining of market share before the relief terminated in late 2012. The USW is seeing increased production at facilities where it has members and is confident that the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on tires from China will result in improved market conditions in the United States.”
Regarding the increase in imports from other countries, Ranick said if imports from those countries “cause harm to the domestic industry and are dumped or subsidized, the USW will explore options to address such problems as they arise.”