U.S. companies must fight to maintain a level playing field

It’s become increasingly diffi- cult to “buy American,” whether the purchase in question is lawn equipment, electronics, hand tools, clothing, household appliances — the list could go on to easily fill this page.

Part of the problem can be traced to stiff competition in what has become a world economy. And it is difficult for First World economies to match Second and Third World economies on price. And so the battleground becomes not price, but quality. And all the made-in-America companies and their employees want is a level playing field. That’s a field on which their products can compete in foreign markets without crippling tariffs and on which foreign products are sold in the United States at a price that represents their true production cost.

Selling products at prices below fair market value is known as dumping, and it is illegal under U.S. trade law.

When other countries dump their products on U.S. markets at below cost they are in effect exporting their potential unemployment to the United States. These countries subsidize production of goods in order to maintain domestic employment. When those artificially cheap products displace American-made products in stores and showrooms, American workers lose their jobs.

We have long encouraged U.S. companies to be aggressive in fighting dumping and have called for the U.S. International Trade Commission to be aggressive in upholding complaints against dumping. Once the ITC rules, it is up to the administration to seek appropriate duties against products being dumped on the U.S. market. The Obama administration has been consistent in doing so, and now it has another opportunity.

A win by Whirlpool

The U.S. ITC issued a final ruling last month determining that Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and other foreign manufacturers have been selling washing machines in the U.S. at below their market value. The machines were made in Mexico and South Korea.

The complaint was brought by Whirlpool Corp., which is based in Benton Harbor, Mich., and is the world’s biggest appliance maker. The company has a significant presence in Ohio. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says there are 10,000 Whirpool employees in the state.

U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Portman, a Republican, both hailed the ITC decision. When Brown testified before the ITC in December he noted that Whirlpool has its largest U.S. factory in Clyde and other facilities in Marion, Findlay, Ottawa, Greenville and Columbus.

Tariffs against Samsung, LG, Daewoo and Electrolux could range from 11 percent to 151 percent. Obviously, that is going to affect the price of those consumer goods, which is the point in dumping cases.

And while no one likes to pay higher prices at the store, fewer people want to see their neighbors lose their jobs or the American economy have to cope with the effects of unemployment.

While the future of the American economy is tied to high-tech industries, there is no reason to believe that the nation can survive as a nonmanufacturing economy. It can’t, and it is up to companies like Whirlpool to fight for the right to produce and sell their goods in the United States. And to be applauded when they win.

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