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Ohio reps urge Kerry to protect Cooper in China

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U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and Reps. Bob Latta and Jim Jordan sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Mike Froman urging government officials to do all that they can to protect the interests of Findlay-based Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. in China.

The letter was sent ahead of meetings of the U.S.-China Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Beijing on Dec. 19-20 chaired by Pritzker, Froman and their Chinese counterparts, according to a press release issued by Sen. Portman’s office.

Excerpts of the letter appear below:

“We write today with deep concern about a serious issue Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is facing at its joint venture in China which has put the entire company at risk, including more than 5,000 jobs in the United States, and which has serious implications for all American businesses with interests and investments in China. We respectfully request your assistance in resolving this urgent matter.

“Cooper has been facing a series of actions in violation of its rights as the majority owner of the joint venture…These actions have included, initially, two 5,000-employee work stoppages and, subsequently, labor actions including forced occupation of the CCT production facility; denial of access for Cooper and its appointed members of CCT management to the facility, financial data, and personal property; workers’ refusal to input financial and production data into CCT systems in accordance with internal operating procedure; workers’ refusal to produce Cooper-branded products; and the unlawful appropriation of company chops and registration documents.

"In response to these actions, Cooper has requested assistance from Chinese government authorities at all levels, has appealed to local police, and has attempted to seek justice in local courts of law, but the situation continues. Cooper management has made multiple attempts to ... reach a resolution. ... At this point, the situation remains unresolved and Cooper has suffered considerable losses."

Since June 2013, one of Cooper’s international factories in Shandong Province, China has faced constant work stoppages and other actions threatening the whole company, according to Portman's office. Cooper operates the facility as a joint venture with a Chinese partner. The press release described the actions at the factory as "alarming."

Efforts to resolve this issue have been unsuccessful and the consequences continue to worsen, according to Portman’s office. “The production process has not been restored to its previous state, and Cooper has suffered considerable losses.

“One of the most critical issues that Cooper currently faces is that it is being denied access to the joint venture’s financial and operational information. Without this information, Cooper is unable to file its financial report for Q3 2013 as required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This has forced Cooper to be in violation of its U.S. and global regulatory obligations, which could potentially have broad impacts on its U.S. operations and its 5,000 U.S. workers.”

According to the press release, the letter was sent following a conference call led by Portman and Brown’s staff on Monday with Administration officials to urge that this issue be raised during the JCCT meetings in Beijing. Aside from Portman, Brown, Latta and Jordan, the letter was also signed by Sens. John Boozman, Thad Cochran, Mark Pryor and Roger Wicker; and Reps. Tom Cotton and Alan Nunnelee.

 For other recent Cooper-Apollo news see:

 “Court dismisses Cooper's appeal of partial ruling

 “Cooper blames Chinese partner for earnings delay


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