WASHINGTON — Tire cord producers Bekaert Corp., Bridgestone Metalpha, Kiswire America and Tokusen U.S.A. Inc. have requested exemptions to the U.S.'s Section 232 steel tariffs for grade 1078 and above high-carbon wire rod.
Bekaert, Kiswire and Tokusen— all subsidiaries of non-U.S.-headquartered companies — pointed out in their submission that finished tire cord is exempted in the Section 232, setting up a scenario in which U.S. tire manufacturers will become more dependent on imported tire cord, "seriously undermining" President Trump's objectives in imposing the tariffs.
The companies submitted their request recently to the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), a U.S Commerce Department office that oversees exemptions.
The U.S. government first proposed imposing import tariffs on steel using the Section 232 protections in early 2017. At that time the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association urged the Commerce Department to consider excluding specific types of tire cord-quality steel wire rod from the tariffs.
Domestic suppliers cannot meet the demand of U.S. tire manufacturers for these steel products, said Tracey L. Norberg, USTMA senior vice president and general counsel, at a May 24 Commerce hearing.
High-carbon wire rod, which is necessary to make the steel wire used in producing tire cord and bead wire, must be made in basic oxygen furnace steel works for required strength and cleanliness, the companies said, and is not available from U.S. rod mills, which use electric-arc furnaces.