Once again the tire industry and the United Steelworkers union are keeping the International Trade Commission busy with another round of petitions for antidumping and countervailing duties.
On Jan. 29, when the USW and Titan Tire Corp.—its partner in the request for duties on off-the-road tires—were sparring with OTR importers during an ITC preliminary hearing, the USW was busy filing another petition, this one against truck and bus tire imports from China.
The OTR case is a renewal of the USW/Titan tandem that in 2007 won duties against imports of unmounted Chinese OTR tires. The new case covers mounted imports from China, along with both mounted and unmounted tires from India and Sri Lanka.
They say nothing has changed, that rising imports are driving down prices, production and employment. The importers see things differently, contending that the ongoing downturn in the sector and lower raw material costs have caused the drop in OTR tire prices. They also claimed that Titan erred by emphasizing low sidewall tires in the market.
Indeed, the case comes at a time when OTR tire producers are seeing economic difficulties because of huge dropoffs in bread-and-butter markets such as mining. Titan itself has seen its revenues plummet, and Michelin suspended production late last year at its new OTR tire plant in Starr, S.C.
For Titan, the outcome of such cases is critical because it, more than any other market player, depends on the OE segment in the OTR field.
The USW, on the other hand, is following its path in leading the crusade against what it sees as subsidized imports putting at risk high-paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. With organizing efforts difficult to say the least in today's world, the union has carved a niche in fighting against imports and trade deals, saying it not only is helping members but also the domestic tire industry as a whole.
The Steelworkers petition on truck/bus tires from China follows by roughly six months its victory in its latest case seeking relief from passenger and light truck tires from China. In this case, it said ITC figures show that during the first three quarters of last year, Chinese imports of truck/bus tires topped the total of all such imports during all of 2012.
They claim that because of Chinese government support, tires from China undersold U.S. producers at margins from 57 to 62 percent.
Most of the U.S. producers likely will remain on the sidelines while this case winds its way through the system, as their global strategies allow them to source from the location that makes the most business sense.
Cooper Tire, though, will be watching with much interest. Tariffs against TBR imports would have a profound impact on its pending joint venture with a Chinese firm to be a main source of truck-bus radial tires to the U.S. company.