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Korea pushes against US import restrictions on washers

WASHINGTON -- South Korea pushed Wednesday to stop the United States from imposing import restrictions on its large residential washers, saying such a move would adversely impact the American economy.

A South Korean government and business delegation made the case at a public hearing held by the US trade representative in Washington with only weeks to go before a final decision by President Donald Trump.

Kim Hee-sang, a South Korean diplomat in charge of the issue, stressed that "should the US take safeguard measures to protect its domestic industry in violation of World Trade Organization agreements, this will lead to a global abuse of import control measures and adversely impact US exports," according to Seoul's foreign ministry.

He also argued that introducing tariffs on washers within the US International Trade Commission's recommended quota of 1.2 million units would constitute excessive regulation under relevant WTO articles.


The USITC has recommended a 50 percent tariff rate on large residential washers built by Samsung and LG, and in excess of the quota. On units below the quota line, the commission has offered two different options -- a tariff rate of zero percent or 15-20 percent.

The move came in response to a safeguard petition filed by US-based Whirlpool in May.

The recommendation was sent to Trump last month, and he is expected to make a decision within 60 days, or in February. The USTR will also make a separate recommendation to the president based on Wednesday's hearing.

According to the ministry, Kim urged the USTR to uphold the USITC recommendation that any safeguard measure apply only to South Korean washers built overseas, not in South Korea.

The Asian nation has argued such restrictions could hurt the US by limiting American consumers' choices and undermining operations at two South Korean-built washer plants in the US.

Samsung's US$380 million plant in South Carolina is set to begin production early this year with 350 people already hired. A separate $250 million LG plant in Tennessee is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

The two companies exported a combined $1 billion worth of large residential washing machines to the US in 2016, holding 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively, of a market led by Whirlpool with 38 percent.

Also in attendance at the hearing were Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Mayor Kim McMillan of Clarksville, Tennessee, to support the South Koreans' argument. , Jan. 3 (Yonhap)