A leading union boss has appealed to the US International Trade Commission to limit the number of consumer tyres imported from China.
The trade ban would give the American tyres industry a “fighting chance” against its Chinese rivals, according to Leo W. Gerard, the president of the United Steelworkers.
Mr Gerard told the ITC that the union has used every tool at its disposal to save the US consumer tyre industry from total collapse, including contract concessions, wage increase deferrals and improved productivity.
However, Mr Gerard said: “All of these efforts aren’t worth a dime if the market is being pulled out right from under us.
“With a short period of relief, we can start to build a sustainable foundation for the future of the American tyre industry and its workers.”
Democrat politicians have back the USW petition arguing that the case is a chance for President Barack Obama to chart a new course for US trade policy.
Several senators predicted that Obama could curb imports of $1.7 billion in automobile tyres from China if the ITCV recommends such action.
The United Steelworkers union, on behalf of its members at tyre plants, filed the complaint against Chinese importers.
The union wants Obama to cut imports of automobile tyres from China by more than half to 21 million, the level in 2005. China sent 46 million tires to the U.S. in 2008, valued at $1.7 billion.
More than 5,100 U.S. workers at tyre factories have lost their jobs as a result of the low-cost imports, according to the union.
However, US tyre companies, including Goodyear and Goodrich, are not part of the case and have not testified.
Mr Ritchie Thomas, a lawyer representing a Chinese industry exporting group, said: “Their absence speaks volumes about the lack of merit to the petitioners case.”
GITI tyres, China’s largest tyre producer, urged the panel in a legal filing to reject the petition, saying the American industry’s woes are caused by the economy, not imports.