The United States should not impose import restrictions on South Korean washers in consideration of its own workers and economy, South Korean government and business officials said Thursday.
The U.S. International Trade Commission determined earlier this month that imports of large residential washers built overseas by Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. were damaging the local industry.
In a public hearing held at the ITC, officials from South Korea's trade and foreign ministries as well as business representatives argued against the case.
Imposing import restrictions on washers and parts that do not compete directly with U.S.-made washers will limit American consumers' choices, they said, according to a statement released by South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Moreover, imposing a 50 percent tariff under the safeguard petition filed by Whirlpool Corp. in May will violate World Trade Organization rules and effectively block the import of Samsung and LG washers, they argued, adding this could undermine the two companies' distribution networks and brand awareness in the U.S.
"This will ultimately make normal operations difficult at the plants being built in the U.S. by Samsung and LG and have a negative impact on the local economies and job creation," the statement said.
Samsung has invested US$380 million in building a washer plant in South Carolina, while LG has invested $250 million in a separate plant in Tennessee. They are scheduled to go online early next year and in 2019, respectively.
At the hearing, the South Koreans were joined by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
The ITC plans to announce its remedy recommendations in November and forward them to President Donald Trump by Dec. 4.
Remedy measures may include an increase in duties, imposition of a quota, imposition of a tariff-rate quota, trade adjustment assistance, or any combination of such actions, according to the commission.
The president is expected to make the final decision within 60 days of receiving the recommendations.
Samsung and LG exported a combined $1 billion worth of large residential washing machines to the U.S. last year, holding some 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively, of the market led by Whirlpool with 38 percent.