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Whirlpool is one step closer to winning an antidumping case against its South Korean rivals, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics. The U.S. International Trade Commission voted 5-0 in favor of Whirlpool's petition to get antidumping and countervailing duties imposed on bottom-freezer refrigerators made by LG and Samsung.

Whirlpool fight Samsung and LG

"When foreign producers compete in the U.S. market using unfair trade practices, we have no choice but to take action to defend the integrity of the global trading system, our approximately 23,500 U.S. employees, the U.S. refrigerator industry, and American consumers," said Marc Bitzer, the president of Whirlpool North America, in a statement. "Dumping products is an unfair trade practice used to drive out competitors, which means consumers end up with fewer choices.”

The commission's decision is the first of four that Whirlpool will have to win before tariffs of up to 183 percent are imposed on the imported bottom-freezers. Samsung and LG both maintain that their actions in no way injure U.S. appliance manufacturers.  

The U.S. imported US$2.3 billion worth of refrigerators from Mexico and $881 million from South Korea last year.

"As a result of the Commission's affirmative determinations, the U.S. Department of Commerce will continue to conduct its countervailing duty investigation on imports of these products from Korea and its antidumping duty investigations on imports of these products from Korea and Mexico, with its preliminary countervailing duty determination due on or about June 23, 2011, and its preliminary antidumping duty determinations due on or about September 6, 2011," the ITC said.

Whirlpool, unsurprisingly, welcomed the ITC's preliminary ruling.

"Whirlpool Corporation is pleased with the ITC's preliminary affirmative determination that imports from Korea and Mexico are causing material injury to the domestic industry," Jill Saletta, spokesperson for Whirlpool Corp., said in a statement. "This unanimous decision by the ITC validates the action we've taken to protect our 23,000 U.S. employees and the communities in which they work. Whirlpool will continue to cooperate fully with the ITC and the Department of Commerce throughout the remainder of these investigations."

LG, unsurprisingly, rebutted the ruling.

"While LG respects the work the ITC Staff and Commissioners have put into this preliminary determination, the company respectfully disagrees with the preliminary result," the South Korean electronics giant said in a statement. "The company will aggressively contest the injury-related issues in the final determination phase."

Sam Kim, president of home appliances for LG Electronics USA Inc., expressed confidence in a statement that his company "will prevail in the final ITC determination," saying, "LG looks forward to the opportunity to more fully set forth the reasons why imports from LG, the innovation leader in the refrigerator industry, has in no manner injured Whirlpool."

No comment from Samsung has been published yet.

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