WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s decision to impose trade penalties on Chinese tires has infuriated Beijing at a time when the U.S. badly needs Chinese help on climate change, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea and the global economy.
China condemned the White House’s announcement late Friday as protectionist and said it violated global trade rules. At home, the punitive tariffs on all car and light truck tires coming into the U.S. from China may placate union supporters who are important to the president’s health care push.
To the White House, it was “simply about enforcing the rules of the road and creating a trade system that is based on those rules and is fair for everyone,” spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling with Obama on Saturday to a health care event in Minneapolis.
Chen Deming, China’s minister of commerce, said the penalties would hurt relations with the U.S. A ministry statement said Obama had “compromised to the political pressure of the U.S. domestic trade protectionism.”
“The Chinese government will continue to uphold the legitimate interests of China’s domestic industry and has the right to take corresponding measures,” Deming said.
Obama had until this coming Thursday to accept, reject or modify a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that a rising tide of Chinese tires into the U.S. hurts American producers. The United Steelworkers union blames the increase for the loss of thousands of American jobs.
The federal trade panel recommended a 55 percent tariff in the first year, 45 percent in the second year and 35 percent in the third year. Obama settled on 35 percent the first year, 30 percent in the second and 25 percent in the third, Gibbs said
The decision comes as U.S. officials are working with the Chinese and other nations to plan an economic summit in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25 of the 20 leading rich and developing nations.