Categorized | Business news, Cooper Tire, International, Manufacturing, Mergers & acquisitions, National, Northeast Mississippi, Tupelo

Miss. congressional delegation asks to ‘protect’ Cooper Tire interests in China

Today, Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, along with U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, signed a letter to U.S. diplomats and trade representatives who are meeting with Chinese counterparts in Beijing this week.Cooper Tire logo

A letter they signed asks the U.S. delegation to “help protect the interest of an American company, while dysfunction at a joint venture in China poses risks to U.S. jobs in Northeast Mississippi and elsewhere.”

That company is Cooper Tire, which employs some 1,300 people in Tupelo. The Findlay, Ohio-based tire manufacturer also has plants in Findlay and Texarkana, Ark.

The Mississippi Republican lawmakers were among a bipartisan, bicameral group that  sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Mike Froman urging them to address ongoing problems experienced Cooper the U.S.-China Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade  meetings Thursday and Friday.

We write today with deep concern about a serious issue Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is facing at its joint venture in China which has put the entire company at risk, including more than 5,000 jobs in the United States, and which has serious implications for all American businesses with interests and investments in China. We respectfully request your assistance in resolving this urgent matter,” the letter said.

Cooper Tire spokeswoman Anne Roman said the company appreciated the letter to shed light on its ongoing problems in China, but said there is no implicit threat to jobs in the U.S.

The letter also says, “Cooper Tire, with a Chinese partner, operates a joint venture factory in Shandong Province, China, that since June 2013 has experienced work stoppages and other actions that threaten the entire company.  Efforts to resolve the deteriorating situation have been unsuccessful.  The disruption has derailed the production process and forced Cooper to violate regulatory obligations, which could potentially have broad impacts on its U.S. operations and its 5,000 U.S. workers.”

Additional excerpts from the letter state:

Cooper has been facing a series of actions in violation of its rights as the majority owner of the joint venture…These actions have included, initially, two 5,000-employee work stoppages and, subsequently, labor actions including forced occupation of the CCT production facility; denial of access for Cooper and its appointed members of CCT management to the facility, financial data, and personal property; workers’ refusal to input financial and production data into CCT systems in accordance with internal operating procedure; workers’ refusal to produce Cooper-branded products; and the unlawful appropriation of company chops and registration documents.”

In response to these actions, Cooper has requested assistance from Chinese government authorities at all levels, has appealed to local police, and has attempted to seek justice in local courts of law, but the situation continues. Cooper management has made multiple attempts to … reach a resolution. … At this point, the situation remains unresolved and Cooper has suffered considerable losses.

The letter to the U.S. officials was spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  In addition to Cochran, Wicker and Nunnelee, the correspondence was signed by U.S. Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark. and Mark Pryor (D- Ark.) and U.S. Reps. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) andBob Latta (R-Ohio).

As far as we can tell, there’s not mention that a key part of the problem involves the flailing merger between Apollo Tyre and Cooper. India-based Apollo made the merger offer in June, and it’s been downhill ever since. The Chinese workers essentially said they didn’t like the deal and that cultural differences would be too great if Apollo took over.

And then there’s the detail that Cooper’s Chinese joint venture partner also made a merger offer for Cooper before Apollo did.

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