Whirlpool asks feds for 50-percent tariff on competitor imports


Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool is a global maker of appliances, such as washing machines. Photo via fb.com

An appliance maker in the region has asked a U.S. trade panel to recommend a 50-percent tariff on imported washing machines in an ongoing bid to keep two competitors from increasing imports through means it considers unfair.

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corporation, along with Louisville, Kentucky-based GE Appliances —jointly purchased last year by China’s Haier Group — on Thursday asked the U.S. International Trade Commission, or ITC, to recommend a 50-percent import duty on large residential washing machines during a “global safeguard” hearing of the ITC, according to a post yesterday by Reuters.

The request follows an Oct. 5 ruling by the ITC that a surge of large residential washer imports from South Korean companies Samsung and LG have seriously injured American manufacturers and workers.

Whirlpool filed a safeguard petition earlier this year to stop Samsung and LG from repeated “country hopping,” or moving production centers to evade U.S. trade laws.

Whirlpool attorney Jack Levy told the ITC that “a strong remedy would force the South Korean manufacturers to ‘country hop one more time, to America,’ where they would compete more fairly and strengthen the U.S. manufacturing base,” Reuters reports.

Samsung is currently building a factory in Newberry, South Carolina, and LG is building one in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Whirlpool and GE also asked the ITC to recommend import quotas on “washer cabinets, tubs and basket assemblies” to keep Samsung and LG from opening operations that assemble machines primarily from imported parts, Reuters reports.

LG attorney Daniel Porter told the panel the 50-percent tariff “would severely hurt LG and Samsung by shutting their imports out of the U.S. market until they start U.S. production in 2019,” Reuters reports.

Porter called the request “raw, naked protectionism” that would only benefit Whirlpool.

Reuters said the ITC is scheduled to make remedy recommendations by Dec. 4 to President Donald Trump, who is expected to take action early next year.

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