The United States imposed increased tariffs on imports of passenger vehicle and light truck tires from China in 2009 under the so-called Section 421 safeguard, and these duties are expected to expire September 26. After that date, the United States should remove the additional 25 percent duty currently assessed on imports from China of new pneumatic rubber tires that are used on motor cars (except racing cars) and on-the-highway light trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles. The higher duties were initially set at 30 percent then lowered to 25 percent in 2011.

It is unlikely that the United States will levy any similar safeguard duties against imports from China before its authority to do so expires December 31, 2013. The tire tariffs represent the only time the United States actually used the China-specific safeguard allowed under that country’s protocol of accession to the World Trade Organization. Several other attempts by private-sector interests were tried but not successful. This situation is in contrast to the frequent utilization of other measures to address trade irritants with Beijing.

In the past, both Republican and Democratic Presidents appear to have taken the position that using this tool would not be worth the risk of souring relations with China and jeopardizing bilateral cooperation on larger economic and national security issues. That message seems to have been accepted by those who have filed most of the Section 421 petitions in the past given that no such new petitions have been filed in several years. Reportedly, certain Chinese government officials told U.S. poultry exporters in 2009 that the anti-dumping duties imposed on U.S. chicken was a direct result of the United States imposing duties on Chinese tires.