Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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Putting U.S. workers first

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    From front to back: Lisa Stout, Nicole Johnson, and Tyson Norman work on the assembly line building washing machines Thursday, October 18, 2017, at Whirlpool in Clyde Ohio.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Kaitlyn Bollinger works on the assembly line building washing machines at Whirlpool in Clyde Ohio.

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Kaitlyn Bollinger works on the assembly line building washing machines at Whirlpool in Clyde Ohio.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

President Trump has entered a delicate, potentially risky trade showdown with China and South Korea by slapping tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels.

But Mr. Trump is fulfilling his pledge to protect American manufacturers. And he has found bipartisan allies in Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, who successfully lobbied the administration on behalf of Whirlpool Inc., which produces washing machines in Clyde, Ohio.

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Whirlpool has complained for years that it has been at a competitive disadvantage because of cheap washing machines being dumped into the U.S. marketplace by South Korean firms Samsung Electronic Co. and LG Electronics.

The first 1.2 million imported machines will have a 20-percent tariff attached in the first year. Subsequent imports will have a 50-percent tariff. In the next two years, the tariff will be reduced.

“This is welcome news for the thousands of Whirlpool workers in Clyde, Ohio, whose jobs have been threatened by a surge of cheap washers,” Mr. Brown said. “These tariffs will help level the playing field, and show anyone who tries to cheat our trade laws that they won’t get away with it.”

This is a bold move that will allow Whirlpool to be more competitive, but it is also fraught with economic peril. LG responded by telling U.S. retailers that it will be hiking prices for its washers.

In 2009, Barack Obama responded to concerns of U.S. tire makers, whose prices were being undercut by cheaper Chinese tires. Mr. Obama approved a 35 percent tariff. The U.S. added tire production jobs, but the average tire price surged about $8 per tire for consumers when China increased its prices by more than 25 percent.

The trade-off for protecting and creating American jobs may very well be higher prices on certain products. But this is what Mr. Trump pledged to do if elected — put American workers first.

Americans must, sooner or later, face this question: Are you willing to pay more for a product because a fellow American, maybe a neighbor, made it?

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