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Washer Import Case Brought Out The Big Guns In Washington

Some of the biggest names in the appliance industry converged on Washington this month as Whirlpool’s anti-dumping crusade against Samsung and LG came to a head.

Top executives including Whirlpool chairman/CEO Jeff Fettig and Samsung president/CEO Tim Baxter testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which is considering a safeguard petition from Whirlpool. The measure would impose punitive sanctions on predatorily-priced imports of Samsung and LG washers, regardless of where they are manufactured.

The Korean companies evaded previous country-of-origin sanctions by shifting production to other locales, Whirlpool said, and their below-market pricing has hurt U.S. majap makers.

“Without safeguard relief, it is hard to see how we maintain our competitiveness in the face of a continued onslaught of low-priced imports,” Fettig told the ITC panel.

Echoing President Trump’s “America First” trade agenda, he said Samsung’s and LG’s “evasive country-hopping behavior” is also taking a toll on U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Lending further support to the petition were Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) of Ohio, where Whirlpool maintains five manufacturing facilities, and Peter Pepe, clothes care VP at GE Appliances, who testified that “uneconomic practices by new competitors are seriously injuring us.”

But Baxter, and his U.S. majap chief John Herrington, argued that they are competing fair and square in the marketplace, and are taking share from Whirlpool by producing superior products.

“Consumers continue to vote with their wallet,” Baxter testified. Added Herrington, “We have not harmed Whirlpool; rather, we recognized and anticipated the changing market and drove new trends,” Reuters reported.

Testifying on behalf of LG was senior VP John Riddle, who cited the company’s investment in product innovation and its brand. “A good part of LG’s growth in sales over the past years has resulted from new retailers deciding for the first time to carry LG appliances, and these retailers’ decisions were based in principal part on the overall strength of the LG brand,” he said.

Both Riddle and Herrington cited Whirlpool’s overwhelming dominance of the U.S. washer business after its 2006 acquisition of Maytag, when its market share topped 70 percent, and implied that the company has no one to blame for its laundry declines but itself.

The ITC is expected to make a final determination next month and, if warranted, will recommend remedies to Trump by late November. The president would then render a decision by early next year.