Chinese Envoy Heads To U.S. Amid Tire Fight

BEIJING (AP) -- A Chinese deputy commerce minister flew to Washington on Monday to lobby against a proposal to impose punitive duties of up to 55 percent on imports of Chinese tires, the government announced.

The government of President Barack Obama is deciding whether to impose duties after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in June that competition from rapidly rising imports of Chinese tires was hurting American producers.

Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan will meet White House, Treasury and trade officials to press Beijing's case against the tariffs, the Commerce Ministry said on its Web site.

Beijing has rejected the duties as a violation of World Trade Organization free-trade principles. Another deputy commerce minister, Fu Ziying, criticized the proposal last week as protectionist and said it would harm U.S.-Chinese trade.

Washington also has launched a series of trade investigations into whether Chinese exporters are dumping goods ranging from wooden bedroom furniture, honey and candles to gift boxes, industrial chemicals and fresh garlic.

The union that brought the tire case, the United Steelworkers, says Chinese exports to the United States more than tripled in 2004-08 to 41 million tires a year. The union said that led to the loss of 5,100 American jobs and another 3,000 jobs could be lost this year.

The union wants Obama to cap imports of Chinese tires at 21 million per year.

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