Like with most things, there has to be some middle ground between allowing cheap imports into the U.S. and protecting jobs at home. The U.S. International Trade Commission, which is an independent Federal agency, actually recommended that Obama impose duties for three years starting at 55% to counter tire imports from China, which have tripled over the last 4 years.
Contrary to what you think, U.S. tire companies do make cheap low cost tires. However, they have moved those operations to China and Mexico to take advantage of cheap wages and almost non-existent environmental regulations. The result has been that about 13 U.S. tire plants have been closed and about 15,000 U.S. workers have lost their jobs. Just last year, the Goodyear plant in Tyler, TX closed, putting 1,400 people out of work from its peak production. That plantís operations went overseas. They were the 2nd largest employer in Tyler. They Tyler, TX plant made low cost tires for the replacement market.
During his presidential campaign, Obama outlined a new, progressive trade policy that would help domestic industries seeking relief from foreign competition. It looks like he is following through on that promise. Since the election, he has also pledged to avoid protectionism to avoid exacerbating the current global recession. Itís going to be difficult walking the fine line between the two.