U.S. Pursues Whirlpool Complaint on Korean, Mexican Washers

The U.S. will investigate Whirlpool Corp. (WHR)’s trade complaint that producers of large residential washing machines made in South Korea and Mexico are selling the products below cost to American consumers.

The U.S. Commerce Department agreed to act on a petition by Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool against Seoul-based LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) of Suwon, South Korea. The U.S. imported $1.1 billion of the washers from the two nations in 2010, the department said today in a statement.

Whirlpool is seeking “to promote a fair and open global trading system, to protect American jobs, and ensure its ability to continue to innovate and invest in the United States,” the company said today in an e-mailed statement.

The U.S. uses more than 300 anti-dumping and countervailing duties to protect American-made goods, such as honey and bedroom furniture, from global competition deemed by the Commerce Department to be unfair and damaging to U.S. companies.

Whirlpool is requesting U.S. anti-dumping duties on LG and Samsung imports from South Korea and Mexico, saying the products are sold below fair value. Commerce also is investigating possible countervailing duties against the Korean products, to offset benefits of government subsidies.

“LG strongly rejects any suggestion that it has sold clothes washers at dumped prices or that it has been unfairly subsidized,” John Taylor, a company spokesman, said Dec. 30 when Whirlpool filed its complaint.

Commerce, ITC

The U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent agency, is scheduled to make a preliminary ruling on whether American producers are hurt by the washing-machine imports in mid-February, according to the Commerce Department statement. The department may make a preliminary decision on the dumping duties in early June.

Both the commission and department could make final decisions on the trade actions later this year, if they find that the imports damage U.S. companies.

Whirlpool has 3,500 employees at a factory in Clyde, Ohio, between Toledo and Cleveland, where washing machines are produced. The company has invested $175 million to make energy- and water-efficient appliances, according to a statement when the complaint was filed on Dec. 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Martin in Washington at emartin21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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