The United States Commerce Department has granted a request from Whirlpool to place tariffs on washing machine models imported from South Korea and Mexico.
The department said that Samsung and LG Electronics imported washing machines from Korea and Mexico at prices below fair market value, a practice known as dumping. Dumping is illegal under trade law in the USA as well as other countries and companies can seek to have duties imposed to combat the practice.
The decision is preliminary and won't become final until January 2013, after further investigation by Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. The companies targeted by this action all said they would, unsurprisingly, fight the decision. Spokespersons for Samsung and Electrolux said that some of the methods used by the Commerce Department to calculate the tariffs violate the World Trade Organization's rules which is a pretty bold claim to make.
A Samsung spokesperson said that the company "strongly disagrees with this finding, and ... is confident that once the final phase of the investigation is completed, the Department of Commerce will determine that Samsung has not engaged in dumping and is in compliance with U.S. trade laws."
LG Electronics said it would "aggressively contest" the department's conclusions before a final decision is reached.
The tariffs will be imposed on about $434 million of imports from Mexico and $569 million from South Korea, based on 2011 data.
Whirlpool is the world's largest appliance manufacturer and has filed several complaints against imports from Korea and Mexico, after recently locating more of its own production in the USA. Earlier this years Whirlpool lost its case that accused Samsung and LG of dumping refrigerators.
In the washing machine case, the Commerce Department said that it has also imposed tariffs on Whirlpool's imports from Mexico.
Whirlpool said in a statement that it no longer imports washers from Mexico. The company instead makes clothes washers at a plant in Clyde, Ohio, where it says it has made "significant investments" and employs 3,500 workers.
"Whirlpool is committed to building products in the regions where they are sold and investing in our U.S. manufacturing presence," said Kristine Vernier, a Whirlpool spokesperson.
The company says that nearly all the washers it sells in the United States will be made domestically by 2013.