Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Provide Relief to Workers

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln and a bipartisan coalition of 10 other Senators today called on President Obama to follow the recommendation of the International Trade Commission (ITC) and provide relief to domestic tire industry workers who have been harmed by a surge of Chinese imports.

In a letter to the President, the Senators said that adopting the ITC's recommendation would remedy the market disruption caused by imports of Chinese tires and "save thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs" as well as "halt the further decline of the U.S. tire industry." They also said that providing relief "would send a powerful message to the American people that you intend to keep your promise to enforce trade laws fully."

The Senators noted that from 2004 through 2008, "Chinese tire imports drastically reduced U.S. producer market share by a surging 215 percent in volume and a staggering 295 percent in value. The ITC record demonstrates that the increased imports paralleled the collapse of domestic production, shipments, capacity and employment. More than 5,100 workers have lost their jobs during this period, with four facilities closed, capacity and hours reduced in others, and more facilities slated for closure in 2009. The results have been extremely painful and caused harm to families and entire communities in our states and across the country."

On April 20, the United Steelworkers (USW) submitted a petition to the ITC under Section 421 of the Trade Act of 1974 seeking relief from a surge in Chinese imports. The Section 421 trade safeguard became law in 2000 as a condition for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Under this safeguard mechanism, companies or workers injured by import surges from China can petition for temporary relief in the form of reduced imports.

On June 18, the ITC affirmed the USW petition and ruled that the U.S. tire industry has been adversely affected by Chinese imports. Following a June 29 vote for a strong tariff remedy, the ITC presented its report and recommendation to President Obama on July 9. The President's decision for a remedy is due in mid-September.

In addition to Lincoln, signatories of the letter to the President included Senators Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

The text of the letter to President Obama is below.

July 16, 2009

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to urge you to adopt the recommendations made on June 29 by the International Trade Commission (ITC) for import relief in a case brought by the United Steelworkers (USW) under Section 421 of the Trade Act of 1974 and involving a surge in passenger and light truck tires imported from China.

An important American industry- with manufacturing facilities in thirteen states across the nation and employing over 31,000 workers- is on its knees due to the market disruption caused by imports of Chinese tires. Your decision to adopt the ITC's recommendation would remedy this disruption, save thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs, and halt the further decline of the U.S. tire industry.

The case presents a classic example of why the China-specific safeguard was adopted in conjunction with China's WTO accession. At long last, it must be used as Congress intended. From 2004 through 2008, Chinese tire imports drastically reduced US producer market share by surging 215 percent in volume and a staggering 295 percent in value. The ITC record demonstrates that the increased imports paralleled the collapse of domestic production, shipments, capacity and employment. More than 5,100 workers have lost their jobs during this period, with four facilities closed, capacity and hours reduced in others, and more facilities slated for closure in 2009. The results have been extremely painful and caused harm to families and entire communities in our states and across the country.

The ITC Commissioners who found market disruption unanimously recommended that tariffs - 55% in year one, 45% in year two and 35% in year three - be placed across the board on passenger and light truck tires from China. We firmly agree that adopting the ITC's recommended relief would provide the breathing room the industry and its workforce so desperately need to bring back its capacity and workforce. Such relief, as the ITC found, would not impose any significant cost on consumers but would make all the difference to our domestic industry and its workers. We also support having the Secretary of Labor make affected tire workers eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance on an expedited basis.

Likewise, we firmly believe that providing this specific measure of relief would send a powerful message to the American people that you intend to keep your promise to enforce trade laws fully. Across the country, Americans are increasingly frustrated with the impacts of unfair trade practices on working families. The Section 421 case is an important test case in that regard and an important step in regaining the public's confidence in trade liberalization. We appeal to you to provide relief and secure the future of our domestic tire industry and its highly-skilled workforce. Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Senator Blanche Lincoln
Senator Evan Bayh
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Bob Casey, Jr.
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Arlen Specter
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Mark R. Warner
Senator Kay R. Hagan
Senator Richard Burr