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US union asks Obama to limit China tire imports

Shanghai, June 4 ( The United Steelworkers union in the U.S. recently asked President Obama to impose a quota that would restrict Chinese tire imports to 21 million, taking them back to 2005 levels, Financial News reported.

The union said more than 5,100 U.S. workers have lost jobs because of low-price Chinese tire imports that increased 215% in volume from 2004 to 2008. It said the surge of 46 million tires was worth $1.7 billion in 2008.

China's largest tire producer GITI Tire Pte Ltd. argued against any quotas, saying that China was filling a need by supplying low-cost tires and that the American tire industry's woes are caused by the economy, not imports.

The tire dispute comes as U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is visiting China, where he has sought to soften the tone on contentious issues such as Beijing's currency policy.

At a hearing of the International Trade Commission on Tuesday, some Democratic lawmakers urged President Obama to break with the practice of the Bush administration and slap limits on imports of tires from China.

The commission is not expected to decide on the case until later this month. If the panel rules for the union, Obama would have 90 days to decide what, if any protection, to provide.

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