US sets steep final duties on China off-road tires

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday set final duties ranging up to more than 210 percent on millions of off-road tires it said were being sold in the United States at unfairly low prices.

“After a thorough investigation, the Department of Commerce has found that Chinese exporters of off-the-road tires have received government subsidies and sold at below the cost of production in the United States,” said Assistant Commerce Secretary David Spooner said in a statement.

Titan Tire Corp, an Iowa-based company that makes off-road tires for agricultural, construction and industrial vehicles for customers including John Deere-Lanz Verwaltungs AG JDLG.F, and union workers filed two cases last year asking for import relief.

Nashville-based Bridgestone Corp 5108.T, the world's largest tire and rubber company, has supported the case.

U.S. imports of the tires targeted in case rose from 12.4 million in 2005 to nearly 15.0 million in 2006. The Commerce Department imposed preliminary anti-dumping duties in August 2007 and imports declined last year to 13.7 million.

The final duties announced on Tuesday were in many cases lower than the preliminary levels.

However, an unspecified number of Chinese suppliers will still face a 210.48 percent anti-dumping duty and an additional 5.62 percent countervailing duty on their exports.

The biggest change was for Xuzhou Xugong Tyre Co., whose preliminary duty of 51.81 percent was knocked down to zero.

More than 40 other Chinese tire producers and exporters received a final anti-dumping duty of 9.48 percent, down from a preliminary rate of 24.75 percent.

The Commerce Department hit Hebei Starbright Tire Co with a combined final anti-dumping and countervailing duty of 33.15 percent, and Tianjin United Tire and Rubber International Co with a combined duty of 14.94 percent.

The case is one of several that U.S. manufacturers in businesses ranging from steel pipe to refrigerator magnets have brought over the past year against their Chinese competitors.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has the power to strike down the duties if it decides the off-road tire imports have not materially harmed U.S. producers.

The trade panel held the first of two days of hearing on that issue on Tuesday. It will vote in August on whether to allow the duties or not.

“China illegally subsidizes its industries and manipulates its currency to unfairly give an advantage to its manufacturers over American workers, and those Chinese companies must be punished in this case,” Rep. Don Manzullo, an Illinois Republican, said in testimony to the U.S. ITC. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Walsh)