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China on offensive as US weighs tire import curb

Friday, the US Trade Representative will hold a hearing on a US Steelworkers' proposal to cut imports in half. Last year, the US imported about 46 million tires from China.

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China's tire producers are pushing back against a US threat to curb imports in the latest sign of China's increasing assertiveness on global trade.

The row over tires has stoked concerns in China that major trading partners are resorting to protectionism as they struggle to rebuild their economies and safeguard jobs. And Chinese tire producers have undertaken an aggressive lobbying campaign in Washington that underscores both China's increasing global reach and its reliance on exports of manufactured goods.

Last week, Beijing filed complaints at the World Trade Organization against the US and the European Union over restrictions on poultry and screws, respectively.

But the tire dispute is perhaps the biggest spoiler so far, in Chinese eyes. State-run media have framed it as an egregious example of how the US bends trade rules to suit its domestic interests.

In June, a US federal trade body upheld a United Steelworkers' petition that claimed a surge in low-cost Chinese tires had disrupted the domestic tire industry and cost at least 4,400 jobs. It proposed safeguard measures to cut imports from China in half. Last year, the US imported nearly 46 million Chinese-made tires.

The US Trade Representative is holding a public hearing Friday in Washington on the proposal. It then goes to the White House for a final decision next month. Unionists have called it a test of President Obama's campaign promises to stand up for American workers.

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