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.
The department announced last month that its investigation found Mexican manufacturers were “dumping” the washers in the United States at prices 36.52 percent to 72.41 percent below fair market value, and it set duties accordingly.
It said South Korean producers were undercutting prices by 9.29 percent to 82.41 percent.
South Korean producers Daewoo, LG Electronics Inc and Samsung were found to be dumping at prices 82.41 percent, 13.02 percent, and 9.29 percent, respectively, below fair market value.
Daewoo, which the Commerce Department said failed to cooperate in the investigation, was also hit with a 72.03 percent countervailing duty, while the two other companies received rates of below 2 percent.
Mexican producers Electrolux, Samsung Electronics Mexico, and Whirlpool International received final anti-dumping duties of 36.52 percent, 72.41 percent, and 72.41 percent, respectively.
Whirlpool previously said it had stopped shipping washers from Mexico for sale in the United States and would not have to pay any duties.
For Whirlpool, the decision is far better than the result in another case it brought against refrigerator imports from Mexico and South Korea. In that case, the commission voted last year to block duties set by the Commerce Department.