Last month, I wrote about the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on imported washing machines. As with much of what this administration has done so far, there were no shortage of opinions one way or the other, and I received many comments.
In January, the administration imposed a 20 percent tariff on the first 1.2 million large residential washers imported in 2018, and a 50 percent tariff on machines above that number. Those figures decrease to 18 percent and 45 percent, respectively, in 2019, and 16 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in 2020.
The tariffs stem from complaints filed by Whirlpool Corp. with the Commerce Department contending that Korean manufacturers LG and Samsung have been illegally undercutting prices on washing machines for years.
“As with the auto industry, manufacturing of some foreign products will come to the U.S. This will bring back jobs!” writes William, the owner of an appliance repair business in Haverhill, MA. “The cost of these machines will rise slightly, because the cost of manufacturing will rise.”
“The whole point of the tariff is to get products made here in the U.S.,” asserts Ray, a regional director for an appliance retailer in Tempe, AZ. “If LG and Samsung are building plants in the United States and using U.S. workers and materials, then the tariffs have accomplished the goal that the administration has set forth. It is a simple, yet brilliant, plan that should’ve been instituted years ago. It might hurt a few sales in the short term, but will benefit us greatly in the long term. I am completely in favor of this.”
But Mats, a retired managing director for appliance manufacturer Electrolux in Sweden, disagrees. “Import duties are protectionism and will negatively affect growth and market development,” he argues. “Protectionism makes local manufacturers lazy. Free trade makes everyone sharpen their performance. If you only compete on price, you are soon dead anyway.
“The choice of production location should be based on minimum environmental impact—not creating artificial production jobs that could be done more efficiently somewhere else.”
Maher, an appliance salesperson with a big-box retailer in Charlotte, NC, had this to say: “This decision is simply built on ignorance! Whirlpool’s lawsuit against Samsung and LG stems from the company’s lack of innovations. I have been in the appliance business for 15 years, and I constantly have difficulty presenting the ‘boring looking’ Whirlpool products vs. the ‘futuristic looking’ Samsung and LG lines. There are millions of dollars at stake for the states of South Carolina and Tennessee.”
George, the owner of an appliance repair business in Missoula, MT, is more pessimistic. “Whirlpool won the battle, but will lose the war,” he says. “It’s shortsighted. When Samsung and LG start making their products here, it will kill the domestic brands.”
Clear as mud, right? I’m glad I don’t have to make such decisions.