U.S. panel approves duties on washers from Mexico, South Korea

WASHINGTON Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:35pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. trade panel gave final approval on Wednesday to anti-dumping duties on hundreds of millions of dollars of residential washing machines from Mexico and South Korea in a case brought by American manufacturer Whirlpool (WHR.N).

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted 6-0 that the century-old U.S. manufacturer had been materially harmed, or at least was threatened with material injury, by the imports.

The action clears the way for the Commerce Department to issue five-year duty orders on imports manufactured by Samsung SAGR.UL, LG Electronics (066570.KS) and other suppliers.

For Whirlpool, the decision is far better than the result in another case it brought against refrigerator imports from Mexico and South Korea. In that case, the commission voted last year to block duties set by the Commerce Department.

Marc Bitzer, president of Whirlpool North America, called the decision "a great victory for the U.S. appliance industry, especially for our employees and consumers."

"We expect this ruling will restore a level competitive playing field that enables Whirlpool and other U.S. manufacturers to continue investing in America to produce the high-quality, innovative products that consumers deserve," Bitzer said.

Samsung said it was disappointed with the decision and warned it could "reduce the full range of choice in premium washers for some American consumers."

The United States imported $434 million worth of washers from Mexico in 2011 and $568 million from South Korea.

The Commerce Department announced last month that its investigation found Mexican manufacturers were "dumping" the washers in the United States at prices 36 percent to 72 percent below fair market value and it set duties accordingly.

It said South Korean producers were undercutting prices by around 9 percent to 82 percent.

The department also set countervailing duties of 0.01 percent to 72 percent on the South Korean washers to offset government subsidies it found in its investigation.

South Korean producers Daewoo DEWOO.UL, LG and Samsung were found to be dumping at prices about 82 percent, 13 percent, and 9 percent, respectively, below fair market value.

Daewoo, which the Commerce Department said failed to cooperate in the investigation, was also hit with a 72 percent countervailing duty, while the two other companies received rates of below 2 percent.

Mexican producers Electrolux (ELUXb.ST), Samsung Electronics Mexico and Whirlpool International received final anti-dumping duties of 37 percent, 72 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

Whirlpool has previously said that it had stopped shipping washers from Mexico for sale in the United States and therefore would not have to pay any duties.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Will Dunham)

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