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White House: US Tariffs on Chinese Tire Imports Are Fair

The White House says the U.S. decision to impose additional duties on Chinese tire imports is intended to reinforce fair trade rules, and not start a trade war.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Saturday rejected China's accusation that the U.S. move violates World Trade Organization rules. Gibbs said the United States simply wants to enforce rules to create a trade system that is fair for everybody. He spoke to reporters traveling with U.S. President Barack Obama to a health care event in the northern U.S. city of Minneapolis.

The White House announced Friday that President Barack Obama has decided to approve a three-year tariff aimed at restricting tire imports from China.

Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said Beijing strongly opposes what it calls a "protectionist" move. He said China reserves the right to retaliate.

The additional tariffs were requested by the U.S. Steelworkers Union, which says that Chinese tire imports hurt the U.S. industry.

The new tariffs will include an extra 35 percent duty on all car and light truck tires for the first year, to be followed by 30 percent the second year and 25 percent the third year.

An existing four percent duty is already in effect. The powerful Steelworkers Union has argued that the rising imports of Chinese tires has resulted in the loss of thousands of American jobs.

The tariff levels set by Mr. Obama are lower than the U.S. International Trade Commission recommended earlier this year, but media reports say they could still result in a significant drop in Chinese tire imports.

Critics say the tariffs will hurt American consumers because they will increase prices and limit the choices available to buyers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.