A developing international trade dispute over imported tires played out in Western New York Monday as the state's two senators lauded President Obama's move to sanction China for "dumping" its subsidized product into U.S. markets.
Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer defended the president while in the home turf of the Goodyear-Dunlop Co., which employs more than 1,000 people in its Town of Tonawanda plant.
"The Chinese have a trade surplus with us of hundreds of billions of dollars every year; they gain far more than they lose," Schumer told a Cheektowaga news conference. "They are not in any position to resist fair sanctions like this one."
Earlier in the day after addressing the Public Employees Federation state convention at the Conference Center Niagara Falls, Gillibrand also hailed Obama's sanction action.
"I hope the Obama administration fully investigates any claims of dumping," she told reporters. "It's very important that if you're going to have trade agreements, you need to enforce them. And this administration -- unlike the previous administration -- is actually committed to that review."
All of this occurred as the New York Times reported on Monday that China began to retaliate by taking the first steps to impose tariffs on American exports of automotive products and chicken.
But as several Chinese factions were pressuring their government to institute its own tariffs against the U.S., Schumer predicted the rhetoric would not translate into action.
"Any place that we do better, they put barriers; so it's just not fair," he said. "They have hundreds of billions of dollars of surplus with us. We can be very tough with them, and they will not cut off their nose to spite their face."
Obama's order raised tariffs for three years on Chinese tires -- by 35 percent in the first year, 30 percent in the second and 25 percent in the third -- fulfilling a campaign promise he made to labor unions.
Gillibrand praised the action also for helping to strengthen the state's economy, part of a plan she said should also include establishing a high-speed rail network from New York City to Niagara Falls, upgrading the state's electric grid capacity, encouraging broadband networks in rural areas and developing "green technology" with an eye toward manufacturing.
She also voiced her support for public employee unions.
"We cannot tolerate outsourcing of state employees," she said. "We cannot tolerate privatization of our state employees' jobs."
Schumer, meanwhile, also pushed legislation he is co-sponsoring with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., that will protect debit card holders who are being charged exorbitant fees by banks for overcharges.
He said the situation amounts to triple-digit interest rates on loans that were neither requested nor affordable. In addition, he said banks rearrange the order of charges to maximize the fees squeezed from a consumer. He said if a consumer has $10 in his account and makes three $2 purchases and then a $9 purchase, he or she should only be charged for a single overdraft.
But he said banks commonly rearrange charges so that the $9 purchase would be charged first, and then the three $2 charges. As a result, instead of paying a single overdraft fee, a consumer pays three -- likely producing about $100 in overdraft fees.
Schumer said the bill would warn consumers before a transaction would overdraw an account.
Appearing with him at the media event were several young people Schumer said were unfairly hit with the fees.
"Hopefully in time for Christmas," he said, "we can end this outrageous rip-off of people for no good reason."