The Corner

Biden Attacks Romney on Tire Tariffs

As Dan noted, Joe Biden is set to double down on the GST Steel attack in a speech in Ohio today. (Never mind that Mitt Romney was no longer working at Bain on a day-to-day basis when the company went bankrupt, or that union influence may have played a role in the company’s financial woes.) But Biden is also trotting out another attack today:

What does Governor Romney believe?

When China dumped all these cheap tires here, and we fought back and we won, Romney called it “protectionism.” Said by standing up to China, we would somehow hurt American workers.  That’s Romney Economics.

Biden is referring to Obama’s 2009 decision to slap a steep tariff on tires imported from China, which Romney wrote against in No Apology. “President Obama’s action to defend American tire companies from foreign competition may make good politics by repaying unions for their support of his campaign, but it is decidedly bad for the nation and our workers,” wrote Romney. “Protectionism stifles productivity.”

So who’s right? Well, according to a January article in the Wall Street Journal, the tire tariff likely isn’t creating jobs in the United States — or causing American companies to buy tires made in the USA:

After the tariff was enacted in 2009—35% in the first year—imports from China did in fact drop sharply. But that business quickly shifted to Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and elsewhere. Tire imports to the U.S. from these countries rocketed, proving once again that the world has become one big fungible production platform: If it doesn’t get built in China and it’s too expensive to make in the U.S., it will get made in a cheap locale somewhere else.

“So far as saving American jobs, it just isn’t working,” says Roy Littlefield of the Tire Industry Association, which has 6,000 members. “And it really hurt a lot of people in the industry—smaller businesses that geared up to bring these tires in from China.”

For its part, the Steelworkers union believes the measure has been a success, adding jobs to the U.S. It cites anecdotal and other evidence of production expansion across the industry. Some companies have indeed added production and employees, but whether that is a result of the tariff or the recovery in the U.S. economy isn’t entirely clear.

Katrina TrinkoKatrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...


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