WASHINGTON — President Trump is moving forward with new tariffs on more than 5,700 products imported from China — including virtually every type of tire — worth an estimated $200 billion.
The tariffs will start at 10 percent starting Sept. 24 and then rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019.
Most business sectors in the U.S., including the auto aftermarket, received the news with dismay, but some — such as U.S. retreaders — hailed the tariffs as a key protection against an onslaught of unfairly underpriced Chinese imports.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the final list of goods, coming to 194 pages with a total of 5,745 tariff lines. The original list issued July 10 ran to 205 pages and contained 6,031 tariff lines.
The revised list contains hundreds of tire- and rubber-related items, including:
- Virtually every type of pneumatic tire, including passenger and light truck tires, truck and bus tires, trailer tires, racing tires, agricultural and forestry tires, construction and mining tires, solid tires, motorcycle and bicycle tires, retreads and used tires;
- A long list of rubber chemicals, synthetic rubber and polymers, and grades of natural rubber; and
- Rubber auto and industrial parts including V-belts, conveyor belts, tubes, pipes and hoses.
In announcing the new tariffs, the USTR said there was no change in Chinese trade policies from the administration's Section 301 investigative report released in March 2018.
In that report, the USTR said it discovered that:
- China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions, administrative reviews and licensing processes to pressure U.S. companies into technology transfers.
- China deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in technology-related negotiations.
- Chinese directs and facilitates investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets to generate large-scale technology transfer.
- China conducts and supports hacking into U.S. commercial computer networks to gain unauthorized access to business information.
Setting tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods in July and August did not persuade China to change its unfair acquisition of U.S. intellectual property, the USTR said in its statement released Sept. 17.
"Instead, China responded to the United States tariff action by taking further steps to harm U.S. workers and businesses," the agency said.
"In these circumstances, the president has directed the U.S. Trade Representative to increase the level of trade covered by the additional duties in order to obtain elimination of China's unfair policies," it said.
Comments on the new tariffs were consistent with testimony before the USTR during six days of hearings, Aug. 20-24 and 27, when h representatives of various sectors spoke for or against the proposed action.
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), which testified against the tariffs, said it opposes using tariffs to curb intellectual property theft.
"The retaliatory tariffs announced on Monday could negate the Trump administration's recent successful work on behalf of American companies, such as tax reform," MEMA said in a statement issued Tuesday, Sept. 18.
According to MEMA, the tariffs "will serve as a tax increase on the American public and consumers by increasing the costs of a new car or truck and of maintaining the hundreds of millions of vehicles currently on the roads."
Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, agreed with MEMA that the tariffs constituted a tax on consumers.
"It's disappointing that, despite the voices of those impacted, the administration continues to advance harmful tariff policies that threaten to weaken the U.S. economy," Mr. Shay said.
"Every time this trade war escalates, the risk to U.S. consumers grows," he said.
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said the new tariffs would do more harm than good.
"Over the last year, manufacturers have delivered for our communities and our people, raising wages, building new plants and creating new jobs thanks to game-changing tax and regulatory reform," Mr. Timmons said. "But more U.S. tariffs and Chinese retaliation risk undoing that progress and moving our economy in the wrong direction.
"With every day that passes without progress on a rules-based, bilateral trade agreement with China, the potential grows for manufacturers and manufacturing workers to get hurt," he said. "No one wins in a trade war."
However, Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch, digital media director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said Mr. Trump's reasoning for issuing tariffs was sound.
"China has consistently engaged in unfair trade practices and broken trade laws," Ms. Brotherton-Bunch said. "Chinese officials have done little to stop this. Even folks who disagree with some of Trump's trade moves agree that China is a big problem."
The Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB) is a wholehearted supporters of the new tariffs. TRIB emailed copies of the USTR press release on the tariffs, as well as a link to its testimony before the USTR Aug. 20 in favor of the tariffs.
The U.S. retreading industry offers safe, reliable and high-performing tires to domestic truck fleets, TRIB Managing Director David Stevens said in his testimony. It offers fleets a low-cost alternative to expensive new truck tires while delivering massive environmental benefits by saving natural resources, reducing carbon emissions and preventing scrap tires from being dumped in landfills, he said.
"However, this industry and its U.S. employees are under severe threat from low-cost, low-quality truck tires being imported from China," Mr. Stevens said.
Since 2013, the compound annual growth rate for the replacement commercial truck tire market has been 5.4 percent, whereas the retreaded truck tire market shrunk by 2.1 percent annually during those years, he said.
Joining TRIB in its support of the tariffs was Gene Walker of Farmingdale, N.Y.-based Premier Rubber Co., who also testified at the USTR hearings. Premier Rubber collects buffings from retread facilities across the U.S. to make playground surfacing and other recycled rubber goods.
Cheap Chinese truck tires endanger Premier Rubber's business as much as they do its retreader suppliers, according to Mr. Walker.
Between 2014 and 2017, the amount of buffings collected from retreaders fell to 178 million pounds from 195 million pounds, Mr. Walker said. "That decrease is the equivalent of 400 truckloads of buffings," he said.
Mr. Walker also is a supporter of Retread Instead, an organization devoted to promoting and protecting retreads as an alternative to low-quality new truck tires.
Retread Instead has conducted a letter-writing campaign to members of the U.S. Senate promoting tariffs against Chinese truck tires, Mr. Walker said.
It also is working with members of the Senate Finance Committee to secure confirmation of President Trump's nominees to the International Trade Commission (ITC), he said.
The ITC drew the ire of retreaders and allied businesses in February 2017 when it voted not to levy countervailing or antidumping tariffs against Chinese truck and bus tire imports, despite having done so with Chinese passenger, light truck and off-the-road tires.
Passenger and light truck tires imported from China already are subject to anti-dumping and countervailing duties, dating back to July 2015. In some cases, the duties amount to more than 100 percent.
Specialty trailer tires — a segment where China represents 90 percent or more of the market — were exempted from the duties imposed in 2015.
The categories of tires included are listed below:
4011.10.10 — New pneumatic radial tires, of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars (including station wagons and racing cars)
4011.10.50 — New pneumatic tires excluding radials, of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars (including station wagons and racing cars)
4011.20.10 — New pneumatic radial tires, of rubber, of a kind used on buses or trucks
4011.20.50 — New pneumatic tires excluding radials, of rubber, of a kind used on buses or trucks
4011.40.00 — New pneumatic tires, of rubber, of a kind used on motorcycles
4011.50.00 — New pneumatic tires, of rubber, of a kind used on bicycles
4011.70.00 — New pneumatic tires of a kind used on agricultural or forestry vehicles and machines
4011.80.10 — New pneumatic tires of a kind used on construction, mining or industrial handling vehicles and machines having a herring‐bone or similar tread
4011.80.20 — New pneumatic tires of a kind used on construction, mining or industrial handling vehicles and machines having a radial tread
4011.80.80 — New pneumatic tires of a kind used on construction, mining or industrial handling vehicles and machines, other
4011.90.10 — New pneumatic tires, of a kind NESOI, have a herring‐bone or similar tread
4011.90.20 —New pneumatic tires, of a kind NESOI, have a radial tread
4011.90.80 — New pneumatic tires, NESOI
4012.11.40 —Retreaded radial pneumatic tires, of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars (including station wagons and racing cars
4012.11.80 —Retreaded pneumatic tires (non-radials), of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars (including station wagons and racing cars)
4012.12.40 — Retreaded pneumatic radial tires, of rubber, of a kind used on buses or trucks
4012.12.80 — Retreaded pneumatic tires (non-radials), of rubber, of a kind used on buses or trucks
4012.19.20 — Retreaded pneumatic tires, of rubber, designed for certain agricultural or horticultural machinery
4012.19.40 — Retreaded pneumatic radial tires, of rubber, not elsewhere specified or included
4012.20.10 —Used pneumatic tires of rubber, for aircraft
4012.20.15 — Used pneumatic tires of rubber, designed for certain agricultural or horticultural machinery, for on‐highway transport of passengers or goods
4012.20.45 — Used pneumatic tires of rubber, designed for certain agricultural or horticultural machinery, nesoi
4012.20.60 — Used pneumatic tires, of rubber, for vehicles for on‐highway transport of passengers or goods nesoi
4012.20.80 — Used pneumatic tires, of rubber for machinery, nesoi
4012.90.10 — Solid or cushion tires of rubber
4012.90.30 — Bicycle rim strips of natural rubber
4012.90.45 —Interchangeable tire treads and tire flaps, of natural rubber, nesoi
4012.90.70 — Bicycle rim strips of rubber other than of natural rubber
4012.90.90 — Interchangeable tire treads and tire flaps, of rubber other than natural rubber, except bicycle rim strips, nesoi
4013.10.00 — Inner tubes of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars (including station wagons and racing cars), buses or trucks
4013.20.00 — Inner tubes of rubber, of a kind used on bicycles
4013.90.10 — Inner tubes of rubber designed for tires used on certain agricultural or horticultural machinery
4013.90.50 — Inner tubes of rubber for vehicles nesoi