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Gov’t vows to fight U.S. on washer imports

Oct 12,2017
The government vowed Wednesday to work with Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics to combat any safeguard restrictions on their washing machines sold in the United States, with the Trade Ministry saying the potential measures could bring “inevitable” damage to the U.S. market.

Kang Sang-chun, deputy trade minister, met with Samsung and LG executives to discuss trade restrictions against the two companies.

In a press release after the meeting, the ministry said it would continue demanding that Korean products be excluded from U.S. safeguard restrictions. Safeguards are tariffs and quotas imposed on certain imports to protect domestic players in a market.

Officials agreed to emphasize that such restrictions - including a possible 40 percent tariff on Samsung and LG washers - would hurt American consumers, leading to limited choices and higher prices.

“We also decided to stress that our companies have decided to build home appliance factories in the United States to help create jobs there,” the ministry said, “as well as shed light on the unfairness of safeguard measures against premium gadgets and washing machine products that are not manufactured in the United States.”

Samsung announced in June that it would invest $380 million to build a new home appliance factory in South Carolina by 2020, following LG’s decision three months earlier to invest $250 million in a plant in Tennessee scheduled for completion by 2019.

The ministry, however, said there was a “high possibility of safeguard measures being implemented” under President Donald Trump, who has championed trade protectionism as part of his “America First” doctrine.

The meeting came six days after the U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously ruled in favor of Michigan-based manufacturer Whirlpool, determining that a “surge” of Samsung and LG washers had “seriously injured” American manufacturers. On May 31, Whirlpool had filed a petition accusing the two Korean companies of violating U.S. trade law.

Samsung and LG’s combined share in the U.S. washing machine market jumped from 23 percent in 2014 to 31 percent in the first half of this year, according to market research firm TraQline, while Whirlpool’s fell from 41 to 38 percent.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]