2018's list of top tire trading partners for the U.S. is in, and China has won the title two years in a row. But with Thailand catching up quickly, and rising import duties looming over Chinese tire imports, 2019 may turn out to be a whole other story.
China remained the U.S.' largest tire trading partner in 2018, maintaining its position for two consecutive years. The total value of tire exports from China to the U.S. reached $2.37 billion, marking a 21.8 percent increase from 2017.
These numbers have contributed greatly to the overall value of tire imports into the U.S. in 2018, which rose by 7.8 percent over 2017 to reach $14.8 billion. Tire exports from the U.S. amounted to $5.23 billion, representing a 28 percent increase and shrinking the country's tire trade deficit by 6.8 percent to $9.6 billion.
2018 marked the second straight year during which the U.S.' tire trade deficit has fallen.
Truck/bus tire imports played the biggest role in China's increase. The country shipped a record 9.22 million units to the U.S. last year, marking a 42.1 percent increase from 2017. Imports of medium truck, OTR, farm and other non-highway tires from China also increased in 2018.
Analysts are skeptical about the same pattern continuing in 2019, in light of the elevated antidumping and countervailing duties that the U.S. government has imposed on Chinese tires.
Thailand came in second on the list of tire trading partners for the U.S., exporting products worth $2.23 billion in 2018. Elevated import duties on Chinese tires, together with recent capacity growth in Thailand, are likely to cement Thailand's position as a leading source of tires for the U.S. in the coming years.
Following China and Thailand on 2018's list of top tire trading partners for the U.S. were Canada, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Germany. Trade surpluses were recorded with Mexico and Canada. Between them, the two countries imported 61.6 percent of U.S. tires last year. Mexico itself accounted for a trade surplus of $723.8 million, while Canada contributed $310 million.
The U.S. Department of Commerce data reveals a different trend for passenger and light truck tires. As compared to 2017, imports of passenger tires from China fell by 19.9 percent, and light truck tires by 14.1 percent. Thailand emerged as the leading source of imported products in both categories.
In passenger tires, Thailand increased its exports by 12.6 percent, sending 33.9 million units to the U.S. In comparison, number 2 South Korea exported only 16.8 million units. Indonesia, Canada and Mexico were the other countries in the top 5.
In light truck tires, Thailand overtook Canada as the leading exporter for 2018. Its 6.64 million units represented a 32.8 percent increase from 2017. Canada's exports dropped by 36.2 percent to 4.18 million units. The other three positions in the top 5 went to South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Overall import figures for light truck tires declined by 5.5 percent to 25.2 million units. However, the average declared customs value of imported light truck tires increased by 4.5 percent, coming in at $72.35 per unit.
On the other hand, overall imports of medium truck/bus tires increased by 17.1 percent to reach a record 17.1 million units. China contributed over 50 percent of those imports last year. For imported truck/bus tires, the average declared customs value per unit came in at $155.46, a 1.6 percent increase from 2017.