WASHINGTON-Following approval of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), U.S. imports of tires from Mexico soared in 1995, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. Mexico, which has been a leading source of imported light truck tires for several years, made the list of top exporters of both passenger and highway truck and bus tires for the first time.
Imports of passenger tires from the U.S.'s southern neighbor skyrocketed to 832,407 units last year-more than 62 times the amount imported in 1994. Imports of Mexican truck/bus tires leapt more than 17.5 times to 735,154 units.
The dramatic increases may reflect post-NAFTA efforts by several major tire makers to rationalize North American production among tire plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Despite this trend, the U.S. remains a net exporter of tires to Mexico-and by a wide margin. In the case of light truck tires, imports from Mexico actually slid 8.9 percent from 1994 to 1995.
Spurred by increased shipments from major trading partners Canada, Japan and South Korea, U.S. imports of light truck and highway truck/bus tires reached record levels last year: 5.55 million light truck tires, up 9.2 percent; and 6.15 million truck and bus tires, a 16.7-percent increase.
In contrast, imports of passenger tires fell 8.6 percent from 1994's record 48.2 million units to 44.1 million, due largely to decreased shipments from major trading partners-this time Canada, Japan and Brazil.
1995 was another strong year for U.S. tire exports, and records were set for both passenger and light truck tires.
U.S. passenger tire exports climbed 8.4 percent to 28 million units. Latin America seemed to be a rapidly growing market, as shipments to Brazil nearly trebled, while those to Colombia more than doubled.
Exports of light truck tires shot up 11.4 percent to a record 4.36 million units, paced by shipments to France, which ballooned nearly 2.5 times. Shipments to Canada and Japan also rose, by 5.7 and 16.2 percent, respectively.
U.S. exports of highway truck and bus tires fell 12.5 percent in 1995, due largely to a sharp drop in shipments to Mexico, which fell by more than half. Shipments to most other major trading partners were up, led by a near fourfold increase in exports to Guatemala. Shipments to Canada grew 31.6 percent, while those to the United Kingdom jumped almost 60 percent.