WASHINGTON — Despite measurably lower exports of passenger and light truck tires to the U.S. last year, China was the U.S.'s largest trading partner in the tire sector for a second straight year, slightly ahead of Thailand.
Overall, the value of imports into the U.S. of tires of all kinds last year increased 7.8 percent over 2017 to $14.8 billion, while the value of exports jumped nearly 28 percent to $5.23 billion, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.
As a result, the nation's tire-related trade deficit shrank 6.8 percent to $9.6 billion versus 2017. This is the second straight year the deficit has shrunk. Last year was the first time in decades.
China retained the title as the U.S.'s largest trading partner in tires as the value of its overall exports to the U.S. jumped 21.8 percent over 2017 to $2.37 billion.
- This article appears in the April 1 print edition of Tire Business.
China's increase came largely from higher shipments of medium truck, OTR, farm and other non-highway tires, according to the Commerce Department data, including record shipments of truck/bus tires of 9.22 million units, a 42.1-percent jump over 2017. The value of truck/bus tire imports from China increased 56.2 percent to $1.11 billion.
By contrast, imports of passenger and light truck tires from China — which are subject to elevated U.S. import duties — fell 19.9 and 14.1 percent, respectively, from 2017.
Imports of truck tires from China are expected to fall off markedly this year after the U.S. government imposed elevated antidumping and countervailing duties on the products earlier in the year.
Thailand is a strong No. 2 with tire imports into the U.S. valued at $2.23 billion last year, up 20 percent over 2017. Canada ($1.58 billion), South Korea ($1.3 billion) and Japan ($1.17 billion) rank third through fifth. Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Germany complete the top 10.
Thailand's status as a major source of tires for the U.S. is expected to keep growing, based on the amount of new capacity being installed there and the expected impact of the elevated import duties on Chinese truck/bus tires.
Germany's Continental A.G. recently commissioned production at its $265 million car and truck tire plant in Rayong, Thailand, and China's Shandong Yinbao Tyre Group Co. Ltd.has a plants under construction.
Shanghai Huayi (Group) — parent of Double Coin Holdings — started production this past year at its joint venture truck/bus tire plant in Rayong Province, and Prinx Chengshan Tire Co. Ltd. broke ground April 1 on a $300 million car/truck tire plant it expects to have on stream by mid-2020.
Shandong Linglong Tire Co. Ltd., Otani Tire Co. Ltd. and Vee Rubber Co. Ltd. have expanded capacities in recent years.
Of the U.S.'s major tire sector trading partners, surpluses were recorded with Mexico and Canada last year. In fact, Canada and Mexico accounted for 61.6 percent of the U.S. industry's tire-related exports last year.