An ad hoc coalition, which includes the National Pork Producers Council and 33 other food and agricultural organizations, has sent a letter (see copy below) to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk urging him to consider the consequences of actions he might recommend be taken against China over tires imported into the United States.

President Obama is expected to make a decision by Sept. 17, on the findings of a U.S. International Trade Commission investigation of imports of certain car tires from China. The United Steelworkers filed a complaint with the ITC, claiming that a surge of Chinese tire imports had cost the union thousands of jobs. ITC recommended a “safeguard action” of a 55 percent tariff on Chinese tires.

If the president accepts the ITC recommendation, the food and agricultural coalition is concerned that China will retaliate against U.S. products. Pork and soybeans, for example, have been mentioned as candidates for retaliation.

“We ask that you consider the effect of likely retaliatory action against U.S. food and agriculture products as you formulate your recommendations,” the coalition said in its letter. “Retaliatory actions by China against U.S. food and agricultural products … would significantly affect U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies at a time when many are facing serious financial problems.”

Here's a copy of the letter sent on Sept. 3:

The Honorable Ron Kirk

United States Trade Representative

Office of the United States Trade Representative

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

The undersigned U.S. food and agriculture organizations are writing with respect to the recommendation you will soon make to the President in response to the findings of the International Trade Commission in the Section 421 investigation regarding certain tires from China.

Unlike other recent import relief cases in which China was found to be unfairly dumping or subsidizing products into the U.S. market, there is no claim of unfair trade in this case. However, because Section 421 is a safeguard action unique to China and not applied to other WTO members, and despite the fact that China previously agreed to that treatment to gain WTO membership, there is the real possibility that China will choose to retaliate. Recent press reports indicate that the China Rubber Industry Association intends to petition China’s Ministry of Commerce to increase tariffs on or otherwise restrict U.S. exports of pork and soybeans. Although such retaliatory action arguably would be inconsistent with China’s Protocol of Accession to the WTO, we have seen in other situations that China has demonstrated both the capability and the inclination to implement measures to restrict imports outside the normal WTO process. 

We ask that you consider the effect of likely retaliatory action against U.S. food and agriculture products as you formulate your recommendation. Although pork and soybeans have been mentioned as candidates for such action, any U.S. product exported to China is vulnerable. Retaliatory actions by China against U.S. food and agricultural products, whether legally justified or not, would significantly affect U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies at a time when many are facing serious financial problems. The already dire situation in several of these sectors would be compounded if their export opportunities to China were to be further eroded. For some, the Chinese market is the difference between profitability and possible bankruptcy.

We appreciate the opportunity to raise these concerns and urge you to take them into account as you weigh the costs to other parts of the U.S. economy in this import relief case. 

Sincerely,

American Feed Industry Association

American Meat Institute

American Seed Trade Association

American Soybean Association

Animal Health Institute

Commodity Markets Council

Corn Refiners Association

Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.

Hormel Foods Corporation

International Dairy Foods Association

Louis Dreyfus Commodities

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Barley Growers Association

National Cattlemen's Beef Association

National Chicken Council

National Corn Growers Association

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Grain and Feed Association

National Meat Association

National Oilseed Processors Association

National Pork Producers Council

National Turkey Federation

North American Export Grain Association

Northwest Horticultural Council

Pet Food Institute

Tyson Foods, Inc.

U.S. Grains Council

U.S. Dairy Export Council

U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc.

U.S. Meat Export Federation

U.S. Wheat Associates

U.S. Hides, Skins & Leather Association

USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

USA Rice Federation