AFP / Google News
August 12, 2009

BEIJING — China on Wednesday urged the United States not to impose punitive duties on Chinese tyre imports, citing the need for the "long-term and healthy development" of bilateral ties.

"We… hope that the US government can refrain from taking action out of consideration for the long-term and healthy development of China-US relations," vice commerce minister Fu Ziying told reporters in Beijing.

Fu’s comments came after a hearing at the US Trade Representative’s office on plans to slap punitive duties on tyre imports from China to save jobs in the United States.

It is being seen as a test case for President Barack Obama’s trade policy amid protectionism fears.

The packed public hearing followed a June recommendation by the quasi-judicial US International Trade Commission for tariffs of up to 55 percent on Chinese passenger and light truck tyres.

The commission made the decision based on a petition led by the United Steelworkers Union that Chinese tyre imports had tripled since 2004, forcing plant shutdowns and the loss of 5,100 jobs.

But the largest Chinese tyre manufacturer, Singapore-based GITI Tire (USA) has warned that the Obama administration would be violating its own stand against protectionism if it accepted the tariff proposal.

"It is important to remember that in this case, there are no allegations of unfair trade practices, nor are there allegations that anyone has violated US trade law," company executive vice president Vic DeIorio said Friday.

The American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires said that 25,000 American jobs, mostly in the tyre distribution and retail sectors, would be lost if the duties were imposed on the Chinese tyres.

The US Trade Representative’s office will submit its recommendation to Obama by September 2.

Obama is required to make a decision within 15 days after receiving it — just ahead of hosting Chinese President Hu Jintao at a Group of 20 leaders’ meeting in Pittsburgh.

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