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US Tire Import Tariffs – The Battle Switches to Thailand

There’s a round of “I told you so” going through the tire industry today. When the tariffs on Chinese tires were introduced last year, many industry observers argued that they would promote imports from neighboring Pacific Rim countries, rather than spurring new production in the US.

Now Rubber News has reported that a new battle is brewing in the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative (USTR) over duty-free treatment of tire imports from Thailand. Three tire makers — Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C., Sumitomo Rubber (Thailand) Co., and Falken Tire Corp. — have petitioned the USTR to continue the duty-free status that Thai-made tires currently have under the Generalized System of Preferences. They argue that Thai imports are not a threat to U.S. tire production, and the price increase for all imports caused by the tariffs imposed on Chinese tires last September make it inappropriate at this time to add 4 percent to the price of Thai tires right now.

However, the United Steelworkers disagree, and argue that allowing continued duty-free status for Thai tires would hurt American workers by undermining the effect of the tariffs on Chinese tires. A hearing on the tire makers’ petitions is scheduled for Feb. 11 at USTR headquarters in Washington.

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