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Whirlpool Wins Latest Round In Korean Washer Imports Case

Korean appliance makers Samsung and LG were dealt a major setback by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) yesterday, when the regulatory body unanimously determined that imports of their large home washers have seriously injured American majap manufacturers.

The decision was the latest round in Whirlpool’s longstanding effort to stem the flow of the Asian washers, which, it has argued, impacted sales of U.S.-made machines with their below-market pricing.

However, in reaching its 4-0 determination, the USITC cited “increased quantities” of washers coming ashore, rather than their supposed disruptive pricing.

The Korean companies have denied past dumping charges, pointing to their pricey, feature-laden models, while also skirting country-of-origin sanctions by shifting production to other Asian countries.

Yesterday’s unanimous vote, in response to a safeguard petition from Whirlpool, was intended to thwart the country hopping, and could result in punitive sanctions against imported Samsung and LG washers, including duties, tariffs and/or quota restrictions, regardless of where they’re made.

The decision, which extends to sub-assembly plants as well as end-to-end production facilities, came despite adamant and detailed testimony last month from Samsung president/CEO Tim Baxter, his majap chief John Herrington, and LG white-goods veteran and senior VP John Riddle, who argued for consumer choice.

In a statement, Whirlpool chairman Jeff Fettig called yesterday’s decision “an important win for American manufacturers and American workers.”

The ITC will hold a public hearing Oct. 19 on remedial actions to protect domestic majap manufacturers; will vote Nov. 21 on which measures should be taken; and will send its recommendations to President Trump on Dec. 4.

The president, who ran on a platform of tougher trade sanctions and appointed a protectionist commerce secretary in Wilbur Ross, would then have about two months to render a decision.

In the meantime, LG and Samsung are racing to build U.S. majap plants in Tennessee and South Carolina, respectively, that could eventually render any sanctions superfluous.