WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ohio and Michigan U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) this week urged the Obama Administration to investigate unfair foreign trade practices and defend manufacturing jobs at the Whirlpool Corporation. The senators sent a letter to the U.S. Commerce Department asking the agency to enforce trade laws that level the playing field for companies like Whirlpool. In December 2011, Whirlpool—which is based in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and whose largest American factory is in Clyde, Ohio—filed a case with the Commerce Department regarding the dumping of large residential washers, made in South Korea and Mexico, into the U.S. market. These unfairly dumped imports place companies that manufacture their product in America, like Whirlpool, at an unfair disadvantage.
“In order to create an environment to encourage [the] repatriation [of jobs], we must ensure that companies that do bring jobs home to the United States, such as Whirlpool, are not handicapped by unfair trade practices perpetrated by their foreign competitors,” the senators wrote. “When companies engage in dumping and benefit from unfair foreign government subsidies, it harms American companies and workers and the communities in which they operate.”
“Whirlpool Corporation has nine manufacturing plants in the United States – and five of them are located in Ohio. We know why—because of our state’s strong manufacturing heritage and because our workers are second-to-none. And our companies, like Whirlpool, can compete with anyone in the world when there is a level playing field,” said Brown, who visited Whirlpool’s Clyde plant this week. “But what’s happening to Whirlpool has happened to too many American industries—our manufacturers are being undermined and undercut by illegal trade practices carried out by our trading partners. Unfairly-subsidized imports harm our ability to innovate and compete.
“Our workers don’t mind competition. Competition is healthy. It breeds innovation, and it’s the American way. But it’s not competing when foreign competitors dump their products in our market, undercutting the products made here in Clyde—it’s cheating,” Brown added. “Today, I am urging the Obama Administration to be aggressive in investigating the unfair trade practices of Whirlpool’s competitors, who make their products in South Korea and Mexico. If we want to encourage companies like Whirlpool to continue moving jobs back to the U.S., then we also have to get tough on countries that don’t play by the rules.”
“Ohio companies who play by the rules should not be penalized by the unfair practices of foreign competitors,” said Portman. “Manufacturers such as Whirlpool, who provide good jobs for hardworking Ohioans, can compete with anyone as long as trade rules are being enforced. The Obama administration should continue to investigate the harmful practices of foreign companies who cut corners and put domestic companies at a competitive disadvantage.”
“Workers at Whirlpool and other American manufacturers can compete and win against any in the world – if the playing field is level,” Levin said. “Taking action against foreign competitors engaged in dumping is vital to maintaining that level playing field for companies and their workers making products in the United States.”
“American workers and businesses can out-compete anyone as long as there is an even playing field,” said Stabenow. “Michigan-based Whirlpool became the global leader in major home appliances through hard work and innovation. We need to make sure foreign competitors are playing by the rules and not engaging in anti-competitive trade practices that undermine our businesses.”
The senators asked the Commerce Department to strongly enforce trade law in Whirlpool’s case, applying antidumping and countervailing duties on these washers if need be, in order to create a level playing field and ensure that Whirlpool’s American manufacturing footprint can be preserved. In the letter, the senators state that in order to encourage the creation of new jobs, Whirlpool—which has previously brought jobs to the United States from overseas—should be able to trade on a fair global market. According to the company, the Whirlpool Corporation has more U.S. manufacturing jobs than all its major competitors combined, and more than 80 percent of the products it sells in America are made in the U.S.
The text of the letter is below.
The Honorable John Bryson
Secretary of Commerce
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Secretary Bryson,
We write to urge the strong enforcement of trade laws in the ongoing antidumping and countervailing duty investigations requested by Whirlpool Corporation involving U.S. imports of large residential washers (“LRWs”) from South Korea and Mexico.
Whirlpool – which has more than 22,000 employees in the United States -- celebrated its l00th anniversary of manufacturing in the United States in 2011. Whirlpool has long been known as a leader in the home appliance industry, and with its signature quality products and innovation, has been the largest major appliances manufacturer for many years. While Whirlpool is a global company, in recent years it has increasingly repatriated production to the United States. Today, 80 percent of what Whirlpool sells in America is manufactured in America, while its foreign competitors make no appliances here.
LRWs are a case in point. In 2010, Whirlpool brought the production of front load washer production home to its plant in Clyde, Ohio. In a volatile period, that move secured 500 jobs on the line and more in support in the nearby communities. Clyde employment reached approximately 3,600 at the end of 2010.
Manufacturing lies at the heart of the economies of Ohio and Michigan. The continued repatriation of manufacturing jobs is essential to strengthening our states’ economies and creating opportunities for workers and their families in our communities.
However, in order to create an environment to encourage repatriation, we must ensure that companies that do bring jobs home to the United States, such as Whirlpool, are not handicapped by unfair trade practices perpetrated by their foreign competitors.
It is imperative that the Department of Commerce vigorously and carefully enforce the trade laws to ensure that companies like Whirlpool are provided a level playing field on which to compete -- both for their current U.S. production, and when they bring overseas production home and invest in America.
When companies engage in dumping and benefit from unfair foreign government subsidies, it harms American companies and workers and the communities in which they operate. The Department’s work on these cases has important real world implications with substantial consequences for workers and communities in our states. While there will no doubt be many issues that will arise as these cases move forward, at this stage in the proceedings, we encourage the Department to focus closely, as required under the antidumping and countervailing duty laws, on:
- Ensuring that the Respondent companies fully and accurately report their prices net of all rebates and discounts, as well as their costs of production and adjustments to price.
- Exploring the ways in which the Korean chaebol system and the relationships between the large South Korean conglomerates and their much smaller suppliers may mask the true measure of prices and costs.
- Utilizing whatever public information that the Department gleaned in the recently completed bottom mount refrigerator freezer (“BMRF”) investigations to inform and advance the Department’s efforts to develop a full and transparent record in these investigations.
Prices, costs, supplier relationships, and accurate reporting are always important issues in antidumping and countervailing duty cases, and these cases are no exception. With the Department’s vigilance, however, a clear record can be developed and any unfair trade practices can be effectively addressed.
Thank you for your careful consideration of this matter.