By Oliver Hall
A battle is set to erupt in the US Office of the Trade Representative over duty-free treatment of tyres imported from Thailand.
Three leading tyres manufacturers: Bridgestone Americas Tyre Operations, Sumitomo Rubber (Thailand) and Falken Tyre have petitioned the USTR for continuation of duty-free status for Thai-made tyres under the Generalised System of Preferences.
They claim that Thai imports are not a threat to US tyre production and the price increase for all imports caused by the tariffs imposed on Chinese tyres last September make it inappropriate at this time to add 4 percent to the price of Thai tyres in the present climate.
However, the United Steelworkers, union – which called for sanctions against Chinese-made tyres – argues that allowing continued duty-free status for Thai tyres would hurt American workers by undermining the effect of the tariffs on Chinese tyres.
In its submission to USTR, the union states: “These petitioners should be ashamed to seek an increase in preferential tariff treatment for an industry that manifestly does not need any preferential treatment in order to compete in the US market.”
A hearing on the tyre makers’ petitions is scheduled to take place today at USTR headquarters in Washington.