WASHINGTON — After holding the distinction of being the U.S.'s largest trading partner in the field of new tires for the better part of the past decade, China slid to No. 5 last year as the value of its imports plunged nearly 50%.
Thailand, No. 5 on the list as recently as five years ago, is ensconced firmly on the top rung of the importers' ranking with shipments valued at $2.79 billion, up 25% over 2018 and nearly twice that of No. 2 Canada.
Thailand solidified its claim to the No. 1 spots in terms of passenger and light truck tires with double-digit growth in both categories and took over the spot in the truck/bus tire category as well as the effect of elevated import duties on commercial tires from China ate into that country's numbers.
Thailand also is now one of four countries facing an import dumping inquiry from the U.S. International Trade Commission, at the behest of the United Steelworkers union.
Overall, the value of tires imported into the U.S. last year grew 1.1% to $14.8 billion, while the value of exports fell slightly, to $4.99 billion, pushing the nation's trade deficit in tires up 2.6% to $9.85 billion, according to Tire Business' analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data.
In the passenger tire category, the 37.3 million units imported from Thailand represent 24% of the 154.5 million units imported overall, the data show, and are more than twice the number (17.2 million) imported from South Korea, No. 2 on the list.
The declared customs value of imported passenger tires last year was $51.27, down 10 cents per tire from the 2018 value.
Among the 10 largest countries on the list, values ranged from $24.89 for Vietnam to $63.41 for Mexico.
In light truck tires, Thailand solidified its No. 1 spot over Canada with 15.5% higher shipments, to 7.67 million units, while Canada's exports to the U.S. fell 15.8% to 3.52 million units.