Portman Testifies Before ITC, Supports Continuing Section 201 Safeguard to Level the Playing Field for Ohio Whirlpool Workers

June 25, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) to fight on behalf of Ohio Whirlpool workers against unfair trade practices. Specifically, Portman is continuing his efforts to level the playing field for Whirlpool and its 10,000 Ohio workers, including the more than 3,000 workers at Whirlpool’s largest American factory in Clyde, Ohio.

These measures have been critical to preserving the thousands of jobs at Clyde, and Whirlpool has taken advantage of this opportunity by investing in new products, in new technology, and in its workers,” said Portman. “I am told that, since the safeguard went into effect, Whirlpool’s capital expenditures have more than tripled, and labor-related expenditures are also increasing. In addition, the safeguard has helped Whirlpool’s competitors grow their operations here in the United States, adding American jobs.”

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 on three separate occasions on behalf of Whirlpool.  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 2017, 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.  In May 2017, Whirlpool filed a section 201 safeguard petition with the International Trade Commission. 

NOTE: Below is a full transcript of Portman’s remarks before the International Trade Commission:

Thank you, Chairman Johnson. Good morning. It’s good to be back again.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning as you consider the mid-term review of the safeguard measure on Large Residential Washers.

I am pleased to join my colleague from Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown, who has also testified today. Whirlpool employs over 3,000 workers in Clyde, Ohio, some of whom are here today. Just like two years ago when Whirlpool employees showed up for the initial hearing during the safeguard investigation, their presence shows their pride in what they make and the stake they have in this case.

As a former United States Trade Representative, and now as a Senator from one of the nation’s top manufacturing states, I know that trade policy is complicated and can seem abstract, but it has very real consequences on hard-working families all across our country. It’s a balance, and we have to try to get it right.

For nearly 70 years, the Whirlpool plant in Clyde, Ohio has produced washing machines. But more than that, the plant has become an integral part of the community. In fact, in a town of less than 6,500 residents, Whirlpool employs 3,200 workers.

But despite Whirlpool’s deep Ohio roots, the future of its Clyde plant looked bleak only 18 months ago. After victories in trade cases on dumped and subsidized washers from Korea and Mexico, Whirlpool’s foreign competitors evaded the trade remedies levied by this Commission by importing dumped washing machines from China. And when anti-dumping duties were imposed on those unfairly-traded washing machines from China, production moved again, this time to Thailand and Vietnam. All the while, the Whirlpool employees in Clyde worked hard and played by the rules, but they could not compete with these unfair practices.

This whack-a-mole approach to country-hopping duty evasion was unsustainable. That’s why I applauded the Commission’s Section 201 safeguard determination that increased imports were a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic industry.

Thanks to your efforts and the President’s decision to impose tariff-rate quotas on finished washing machines as well as parts, there has been a decline in unfairly-traded imports.

These measures have been critical to preserving the thousands of jobs at Clyde, and Whirlpool has taken advantage of this opportunity by investing in new products, in new technology, and in its workers. I am told that, since the safeguard went into effect, Whirlpool’s capital expenditures have more than tripled, and labor-related expenditures are also increasing. In addition, the safeguard has helped Whirlpool’s competitors grow their operations here in the United States, adding American jobs.

Unfortunately, some critics of the safeguard have ignored the good news on the ground in Clyde, and instead have chosen to focus on the increased prices of washing machines. In the face of such criticism, it’s important to note that prior to this safeguard, prices of washing machines were low because manufacturers were selling them below market prices -- the very definition of dumping. Moreover, the prices of all home appliances, not only washing machines increased last year.

In fact, a recent study out of the University of Chicago – which has been repeatedly cited in anti-safeguard arguments – actually makes the case for the current Section 201 action. It notes that the 2016 antidumping duties on Chinese production had little effect on consumer prices because foreign competitors were able to relocate their operations. This would suggest that the safeguard was needed precisely because prior trade remedy actions were unable to address the problems posed by below-market pricing.

In closing, I would like to make clear to the Commission that, given the positive results this safeguard has demonstrated for the workers in Clyde, I believe the safeguard should remain in place for now, and I ask this Commission to help ensure the remedy remains effective for American workers.

Thank you for allowing me to participate in today’s hearing.

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