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Union seeks relief from flood of Chinese imports

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The United Steelworkers (USW) have filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission claiming the flood of imported consumer tires from China have led to thousands of job losses and a growing number of plant closings throughout the United States.

The petition was filed under Section 421 of the Trade Act of 1974 by the USW on behalf of its 15,000 members employed in the U.S. tire industry.

"American workers are struggling to make it through the worst economic crisis in 80 years," says Leo Gerard, USW international president. "Our tire industry is collapsing under the weight of 46 million Chinese tires entering our shrinking market annually.

"We are aggressively using America's trade remedy laws to help workers and their employers combat an import surge from a country not playing by the rules. Section 421 is a tool to redress Chinese import surges that gets us through the current economic crisis and preserves a part of America's industrial base."

According to its petition, imports of consumer tires from China increased from 2004 to 2008 by 215% in volume and 295% by value. In 2008, the USW says China exported nearly 46 million consumer tires with a value of more than $1.7 billion to the U.S., making it the largest source of consumer tire imports.

The USW says it is requesting the government "impose an import quota on China of 21 million consumer tires used on passenger cars, light trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles per year." The quota sought by the USW, which would return China tire imports to a 2005 level, would increase 5% per year over a three-year period.

The petition says this action "would improve domestic job security, enable U.S. tire makers to regain lost market share, increase production and sales, and allow investment in capital equipment to better compete in the long term.

Section 421 of U.S. trade law was passed by Congress in 2000. It is designed to help companies, groups of workers and other parties to seek relief when rapid increases in imports of certain products cause or threaten "market disruption" to a domestic industry, according to the USW.

"We believe the evidence strongly supports an affirmative outcome as a result of this import surge from China," says Tom Conway, USW International vice president and chairman of the union's negotiating committee at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Corp.

"We need a quota imposed to reduce the artificial level of imports flowing from the distortions in the Chinese economy and the government's manipulation of its currency."

USW fact sheets and background on the USW imports trade case against Chinese consumer tire products are available at: www.usw.org/tires.

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