Whirlpool wins, rivals to face big import duty; Panel: Mexico, South Korea dumped products

Toledo Blade

WASHINGTON — A U.S. trade panel Wednesday gave final approval to anti-dumping duties on hundreds of millions of dollars of residential washing machines from Mexico and South Korea in a case brought by American manufacturer Whirlpool Corp.

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted 6-0 that the century-old U.S. manufacturer had been materially harmed, or at least threatened with material injury, by the imports.

The action clears the way for the Commerce Department to issue five-year duty orders on the imports.

Whirlpool builds washing machines in Clyde, about 40 miles southeast of Toledo. The plant, which the company says is the largest washing machine factory in the world, employs about 3,400 people.

Whirlpool spokesman Kristine Vernier said the decision is important to support the company’s recent investments in its Clyde plant, which included a $175 million investment announced in 2009.

“This decision is an important step in enforcing laws that help ensure a level playing field for U.S. manufacturers,” she said. “It is extremely important for the 3,000 people who come to work every day in Clyde to make some of the most innovative and efficient washing machines in the world.”

Marc Bitzer, president of Whirlpool North America, called the decision “a great victory for the U.S. appliance industry, especially for our employees and consumers.”

“We expect this ruling will restore a level competitive playing field that enables Whirlpool and other U.S. manufacturers to continue investing in America to produce the high-quality, innovative products that consumers deserve,” Mr. Bitzer said.

Five of Whirlpool’s eight U.S. plants — and almost half its 22,000 U.S. employees — are in Ohio. Besides the washers produced in Clyde, the company makes dishwashers in Findlay and freezers in Ottawa. It also has facilities in Marion and Greenville.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), who testified before the trade commission on behalf of Whirlpool last month, applauded the decision. “Trade enforcement is about standing up for American jobs,” Mr. Brown said in a statement. “Today’s victory will improve the competitiveness of Whirlpool and manufacturers around the U.S. ... Too often, countries have ignored trade laws by subsidizing domestic industries — moves that have made it harder for Ohio manufacturers to compete with cheap foreign imports. Today’s decision from the USITC levels the playing field and is another victory for Ohio workers against unfair trade.”

The United States imported $434 million worth of washers from Mexico in 2011 and $568 million from South Korea.

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