In U.S. Adds Punitive Tariffs on Chinese Tires, Edmund L. Andrews states that:
The tariff, which will start at 35 percent this month, is a victory for the United Steelworkers union, a crucial ally in President Obama’s health care overhaul.
the decision signals the first time that the United States has invoked a special safeguard provision that was part of its agreement to support China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. Under that safeguard provision, American companies or workers harmed by imports from China can ask the government for protection simply by demonstrating that American producers have suffered a “market disruption” or a “surge” in imports from China.
It also looks like the Times has an editing problem. It’s not a punishment at all, unless you regard a penalty for mere success as punishment. The tariff isn’t connected to any misdeed by a Chinese company.
And the connection to health reform is rather tenuous. The union would continue to support reform even without this tariff.
At least this step is better thought out than former President Bush’s tariff on Chinese steel. That wasn’t connected to any misdeed either. Because the tariff applied to the steel only, and not to products containing the steel, it made it more efficient to build steel-containing products outside of the US. I don’t think this one will hurt the US car industry like the previous tariff hurt US steel fabricators.
It’s an unfortunate trend though. Rather than take the time to build a case against Chinese tire manufacturers on the normal grounds (dumping, safety violations, pollution) they took the lazy way out. There’s no way for the Chinese companies to defend themselves. The only response can be retaliation.