The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) initiated a safeguard investigation on washing machines made by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. to find whether their products hurt the country’s local manufacturers as accused by their U.S. rival.
According to sources from the industry on Wednesday, the ITC began a 120-day probe on June 5 upon a petition filed on May 31 by Whirlpool Corp. accusing the Korean producers of relocating washer manufacturing facilities to avoid trade barriers and caused harm to the U.S. industry.
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), safeguard measures including import restrictions or duty increases can be taken when there is evidence that increased quantities in imports of particular products cause serious injury to the domestic industry.
The once U.S. largest washer maker Whirlpool has lost its NO.1 position to Samsung Electronics that commanded a 18.7 percent share in the U.S. washing machine market as of 2016. Whirlpool slipped to the second place with 18.5 percent market share and is chased by LG Electronics with 16.5 percent market share.
If ITC sides with the petitioner, the U.S. president can order actions such as import quota or higher duties to protect the local industry as recommended by the trade commission. But industry watchers believe the trade authority won’t be able act to favor Whirpool as reduced imports of washers could disadvantage consumers due to limited choices in products and prices.
The safeguard news came as Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump are due to hold their first summit talks in two weeks. Trade agenda would inevitably come up as Trump and his aides have suggested revisit to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
By Jung Wook, Kim Dong-eun and Woo Je-yoon
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