Portman Testifies Before ITC, Fights to Protect Whirlpool Jobs from Unfair Foreign Trade
Company Praises Portman for Working to Protect Ohio Jobs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) to fight on behalf of Ohio Whirlpool workers and against unfair trade practices. Specifically, Portman, who has a lengthy record of delivering results for Ohio workers, is fighting to protect Whirlpool and its 10,000 Ohio workers, including the more than 3,000 workers at Whirlpool’s largest American factory in Clyde, from unlawfully importing washers into the United States. Whirlpool praised Portman’s testimony and his efforts to protect the Clyde plant, where Portman hosted an employee town hall meeting earlier this year.
“Ohio has the most skilled workforce anywhere in the world, and Ohio’s Whirlpool workers make a world-class product as efficiently as anyone. In Clyde, a washer comes off the assembly line every four seconds, and dozens of state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles are constantly buzzing around the floor. I have seen this firsthand and have met with hundreds of Ohio’s Whirlpool employees; it is easy to see why Whirlpool continues to invest in Clyde and its workers,” said Portman. “However, Ohio manufacturers are too often faced with foreign competitors who cheat on trade. For years, Whirlpool has been hurt by unfair practices from their overseas competitors, who continue to look for ways to cheat, including by moving their production facilities to China. That is why I am committed to giving these workers a fair shake against unfair trade practices. With a level playing field, these workers can compete and win against anyone, and I will continue to work to ensure that our Ohio manufacturers get the level playing field they deserve.”
“We truly appreciate Senator Portman’s continued support for our workers at our Clyde, Ohio washer facility,” said Jeff Fettig, Chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corporation. “We are hopeful that the ITC adopts Senator Portman's recommendation to approve a Safeguard remedy to help ensure U.S. washer manufacturers finally can compete on a level playing field. This decision will allow us to increase our investments at Clyde and hire more workers.”
Portman is the co-author of the ENFORCE Act and the Leveling the Playing Field Act, legislation that is paying dividends for Ohio’s workers, and he has worked closely with Whirlpool and its Ohio employees to combat unfair foreign trading practices. In 2012, Portman sent a letter urging the Commerce Department to defend Whirlpool, which returned all production to the United States in 2008. He also provided testimony to the ITC. In response to evidence of foreign companies dumping their washers in the U.S. market, the ITC heeded Portman’s concerns and penalized those foreign companies with anti-dumping tariffs.
Following the ruling, however, South Korean manufacturers moved their washer production facilities to China, skirting the order and continuing to dump its products unfairly into the United States. Portman again testified on Whirlpool’s behalf before the ITC, arguing once again that these foreign companies were illegally dumping washers into the United States. In January of this year, the ITC agreed and ruled that Whirlpool workers had been harmed by the flood of unfairly traded washing machine imports from China. The decision means additional duties will be applied to washers imported from China into the United States. Portman’s testimony today urged the ITC to put an end to these companies’ “country-hopping” strategy.
NOTE: Below is a full transcript of Portman’s remarks before the International Trade Commission:
Chairman Schmidtlein, Vice-Chairman Johanson, and members of the commission.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning as you consider the safeguard petition filed by Whirlpool Corporation.
I also want to thank my colleague from Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown, who testified today as well. Whirlpool employs thousands of workers in Clyde, Ohio. A number of them have traveled nearly 500 miles to be here today to show their support for this petition. Their attendance demonstrates the pride they have in what they make and what they do.
All of Ohio is proud of the Whirlpool plant in Clyde. I was there back in February for an employee town hall, and I can personally attest for the work they do. The plant has been active for 65 years, and every four seconds one of these high quality washers comes down the assembly line. In fact, I am told if you lined up every washing machine ever made in the 2.4 million-square-foot facility in Clyde, they could circle the Earth four-and-a-half times.
Every large residential washer sold by Whirlpool in the United States is made at the factory in Clyde. The greatest impact of Samsung and LG’s imports is felt within the local community. With 3,000 workers, this plant is a significant job provider.
Whirlpool in Clyde is quite literally a part of the local DNA. The factory has produced marriages, families, and friendships, and the tax contributions have helped pay for schools, bridges, and roads.
Scott Black, Clyde’s Mayor—who met his wife at the Whirlpool factory where he worked for 41 years—said, “Without Whirlpool being here, Clyde would still be a village and not a city.”
All this is to say we are not just talking about one factory. We are talking about the backbone of an entire community.
I have provided testimony on large residential washer imports twice before—first during investigations into washer imports from Mexico and South Korea, and then again last December during the China investigation. I want to thank you for your decisions in those two cases, but the problem persists.
You would think that the decisions from those prior investigations would have resulted in fair trade and a level playing field for American businesses. But unfortunately, I am back here today because two foreign producers––Samsung and LG––have found a way to continue this trade malpractice by simply moving their production facilities. This transient strategy has allowed Samsung and LG to ship increasingly massive volumes of low-priced washers into the United States. There is no economic justification for their moves other than to evade U.S. trade laws.
This has become trade whack-a-mole, and—at the current rate—there is alo end in sight. Samsung and LG’s country-hopping strategy exposes loopholes in the system. Simply changing the labels denoting country of origin does not change the injustice of what is being done to Whirlpool’s investment in Clyde, and it should not change the decisions the ITC has made in previous cases.
Fortunately, under U.S. law, we have trade tools to address this ongoing challenge. Specifically, Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974—also known as a global safeguard action.
Enforcement of Section 201 is necessary and proper given this case’s history. The increased quantities of washers being dumped by these overseas corporations has been the substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry, and it is unfair to the people of Clyde—and the workers here today. In fact, Whirlpool’s CEO, Jeff Fettig, has estimated that they would have been able to create 1,300 additional jobs in Clyde during the period of investigation if not for the injury caused by the increasing volume of washer imports. During that period, imports of washers doubled in absolute terms and captured market share from the domestic industry. As a former U.S. Trade Representative and a Senator from one of our country’s top manufacturing states, I am here today to say that enough is enough—this is a fundamentally unfair situation that must be addressed through Section 201. And based on your fair and objective assessments in the past, I believe you will come to the same conclusion.
While unfair trade has seriously hindered the domestic industry, there should be no doubt that the American washer industry can succeed with a level playing field.
A safeguard remedy will permit the 3,000 workers at Whirlpool in Clyde and others, like those at Staber in Groveport, Ohio, to compete head-to-head with Samsung and LG. This will create a level playing field for our companies, which will mean more jobs and better wages for Ohio workers. A safeguard remedy will stem the tide of sustained and worsening financial losses so American workers can continue to make these high-quality products here in America.
Finally, I suspect that you may hear a few things today about jurisprudence from the WTO Appellate Body concerning the need to show that “unforeseen developments” caused an increase in imports. Congress provided for a safeguard remedy to be imposed when “an article is being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury. . . to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported article.”
Congress did not include any other restrictions or requirements in U.S. law. Insofar as the WTO Appellate Body has manufactured additional obligations found nowhere in the text of the Safeguard Agreement, these “obligations” have not been incorporated into U.S. law. While I do not need to tell you this, I do not want to leave it unsaid: Congress provided a mechanism for WTO decisions to become U.S. law. That mechanism has never been employed with respect to Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. In fact, across this commission’s seventy-three safeguard determinations, it has not once found that “unforeseen developments” must be shown in order for a petitioner to be granted safeguard relief. Accordingly, U.S. law—and U.S. law alone —should be applied to adjudicate this case
While I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you, I certainly hope that this proceeding is the last time I will have to address the consistent and unrelenting imports of large residential washers from Samsung and LG and the harm they are causing to manufacturers and workers here in America.
I appreciate your willingness to examine this case closely. I know that you will apply the law fairly and evenhandedly. Thank you.