WASHINGTON (Aug. 7, 2009) — Representatives of the United Steelworkers (USW), tire importers/distributors and Chinese tire makers are scheduled to plead their cases today at a hearing at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for and against proposed duties on imported Chinese passenger and light truck tires.
Among those scheduled to speak are USW President Leo Gerard; Del-Nat Tire Corp. President Jim Mayfield; Tom Burkhardt, general counsel for American Pacific Industries Inc.; Thomas Mills, general counsel for Tireco Inc.; Peter Chang, general manager for Maxxis International; Michael House of the law firm Perkins Coie L.L.P. on behalf of Les Schwab Inc.; James Jochum of the law firm Jochum Shore & Trossevin P.C. on behalf of the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires; and Thomas Prusa, professor of economics at Rutgers University, who wrote an analysis of the issue for the free trade in tires coalition.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) voted June 29 to recommend three years of duties on Chinese tires under Section 421 of the Trade Act, after determining 11 days earlier that an upsurge in Chinese tire imports is causing market disruption in the U.S. tire industry. The duties — if President Obama chooses to approve them — would be 55 percent the first year, 45 percent the second and 35 percent the third.
The ITC also recommended that the president direct the departments of Commerce and Labor to provide expedited consideration of trade-adjustment assistance for workers and/or firms affected by imports of Chinese tires.
The USTR hearing is considered the final step in the investigation before President Obama's Sept. 17 deadline to rule on the ITC recommendation. If approved, the duties would go into effect Oct. 2.
The USW, which petitioned the ITC for relief under Section 421, is a staunch supporter of the proposed tariffs, while tire distributors and importers are expected to argue imposing stringent import restrictions would disrupt the marketplace, cost thousands of jobs in the distribution sector and impose a financial burden on consumers.
The USTR is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity and direct investment policy as well as overseeing negotiations with other countries, according to the agency's Web site. The USTR is part of the executive office of the president.
The head of the USTR is the U.S. trade tepresentative, a cabinet member who serves as the president's principal trade adviser, negotiator and spokesperson on trade issues.