Over the past dozen years or so, the U.S. government has imposed antidumping and/or countervailing duties on tires several times—primarily on those coming from China.
The more recent case—still pending, it should be pointed out—involves passenger and light truck tires produced in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, and exported to the U.S.
In all cases, the petitioner seeking the duties has been the United Steelworkers union, which represents roughly 12,000 hourly workers at eight tire factories across the U.S. that produce P/LT tires.
It's worth noting, though, that there are 16 other non-union tire plants in the U.S. producing P/LT tires, with roughly 20,000 workers.
In nearly all of the cases, the USW has argued that the domestic tire industry was being harmed by the imports, and by association, jobs were threatened. In none of the cases, however, has a U.S.-based tire maker agreed to testify on the record for such duties.
The question of "why not" looms unanswered over these matters.
During the May 24 International Trade Commission hearing on the latest round of pending import duties, representatives of the USW called out U.S. tire makers for not providing testimony on the U.S. government's antidumping investigation into the subject imports.
When asked by ITC commissioners why U.S. tire makers that supposedly are being harmed weren't part of this action, USW President Tom Conway threw them under the bus, calling U.S. tire makers "spineless" and said: "Companies won't join the case because they're scared of China ... of getting their tires blocked from the marketplace there" ... or having power cut to their factories there, etc.
Richard Shagrin, lead attorney for the USW's case, characterized U.S. tire makers' absence from the case as "shameful."
Tire Business reached out to the companies whose union worker members testified at the hearing for comment—Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.—for their reaction.
Each offered a blanket "no comment."
Two tire companies with manufacturing in the U.S. did testify: Hankook Tire USA Inc., whose employees are non-union, and Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc., whose workers are represented by the USW.
Representatives of both firms testified against the imposition of the duties, claiming their companies can't supply the vast mix of sizes and types of tires necessary to compete in the complex U.S. market for passenger and light truck tires from their single factories in this country.
In Sumitomo's case, the company and the USW testified on opposite sides of the argument.
Considering that eight other companies with P/LT tire capacity in the U.S.—those whose employees are non-union—theoretically stand to benefit from the imposition of duties, one has to wonder what the rationale is for staying silent on the issue.
Or do they (silently) agree that a certain amount of imports are necessary to meet the multi-tiered demands of the U.S. aftermarket? Nearly all of the tire companies with manufacturing capacity in the U.S. supplement in varying degrees their domestic production with imports.
Davis is special projects editor for Tire Business, a sister publication of Rubber & Plastics News. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @reifenmensch.