Samsung, LG accused of dumping washers

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Samsung, LG accused of dumping washers

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Whirlpool filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday against Korea’s Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, accusing them of selling washing machines at prices lower than fair value. The petition by the American home appliance giant is the latest protectionist move by U.S. companies since Donald J. Trump assumed office as the president.

“This filing addresses unprecedented behavior by two serial violators of U.S. trade laws,” said Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and chief executive officer of Whirlpool Corp. in a statement. The petition, also called a “safeguard,” can be filed by “domestic industries seriously injured or threatened with serious injury by increased imports,” according to the ITC.

Whirlpool claims that Samsung and LG are cheating on the prices of their products by production “hopping.”

The ITC ruled in January that the Korean home appliance companies imported and sold residential washing machines made in China at unfair prices. Whirlpool is accusing the companies of “hopping,” or relocating production sites from China to Vietnam and Thailand to “do another end run around the U.S. trade laws and continue their injurious behavior.”

If the ITC rules in favor of Whirlpool, Korean companies will be slapped with antidumping duty, in which case their products could lose a competitive edge in prices against American washing machines.

LG issued a statement immediately following the petition saying Whirlpool is unable to compete against leading global brands such as LG in the United States and decided to seek government restrictions “which would limit consumer choice in the long run.”

Analysis shows that Whirlpool may be retaliating against foreign companies after that brand lost its position as the market leader. (Combined with Maytag, which Whirlpool acquired in 2006, the company still is No. 1.)

According to data by TraQline, a market share analysis service by the U.S. research firm Stevenson Company, Samsung Electronics is now the top seller in the U.S. washing machine market. Its market share rose from 16.2 percent in the first quarter of 2016 to 19.7 percent this year. LG Electronics, third in the market, went from 16.6 percent to 16.8 percent. The size of Whirlpool’s slice of the pie fell from 19.7 percent to 17.3 percent during the same period.

In the entire U.S. home appliance market, Samsung is now No. 1 with a 19.2 percent share while LG is the runner-up with 15.8 percent. Whirlpool is third at 15.7 percent.

The home appliance market isn’t the only battleground between U.S. and foreign companies.

In May, the ITC reportedly began an antidumping investigation over Korean- and Chinese-made solar panels after American solar panel maker Suniva filed a petition. Suniva went bankrupt earlier that month and claimed that cheap panels from Asia put them out of business.

On April 7, the ITC initiated an investigation into Toshiba on possible chip patent infringement. Later in the same month, it started investigating foreign auto companies such as Honda and BMW on possible electric motor patent infringement.

Trump has repeatedly said he will bring jobs back to the United States, especially in manufacturing, and U.S. companies are pressuring the government and the administration to follow through on the pledge.

Suniva has said that America’s share in the global solar panel market fell nearly 10 percent and 4,800 jobs were lost since 2012.

Meanwhile, the new Korean administration has yet to settle which ministry should assume responsibility for trade-related cases: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.


BY KIM YOO-KYUNG, CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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