On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump consistently pledged to enact policies that put America first. In the next few weeks that promise will be put to the test as the president is expected to make a decision on whether to impose a graduated rate tariff on Samsung and LG washing machine imports.
If Trump decides to protect U.S. interests by imposing this tariff, it will signal a sharp break with the corporatist approach of the establishment Republican Party of recent years.
This topic has long been a stumbling block for the United States. In the name of free-market principles, we have promoted uncompetitive policies that drive down our own wages and send jobs abroad, disadvantaging U.S. workers. At the same time, we have turned a blind eye to foreign governments and corporations that blatantly flout the international rules of the World Trade Organization.
The results of this approach are particularly visible in the residential washing machine industry.
Two South Korean firms, Samsung and LG, have repeatedly implemented tactics that violate WTO rules and U.S. trade law to outmaneuver their competitors. In 2012 alone, Samsung received over $155 million in subsidies from the South Korean government.
By engaging in anti-competitive behavior — like continuously moving production around the world to avoid U.S. duties, accepting massive government subsidies, and “dumping” cheap goods into the U.S. market — Samsung and LG have significantly disadvantaged firms that produce large residential washing machines in the United States. The result is that Samsung and LG are able to flood U.S. markets with artificially cheap products, undercutting profits of firms that have followed the rules. That poses a direct threat to American workers’ employment and wages.
Some proponents of anti-competitive policies argue that it’s worth it to disadvantage U.S. manufacturers to improve access to cheaper goods (as, for example, Peter Roff did in a recent Daily Caller op-ed. But this argument fails to recognize that preferencing the artificially cheap goods of foreign companies who break the rules comes at a real cost to U.S. workers.
The advantages enjoyed by the two Korean companies are indisputably reflected in their presence in the U.S. market. According to an LG spokesman, Samsung and LG’s combined U.S. sales are projected to reach 2.5 million washing machines this year.
At the end of 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) put out a report detailing its recommendations on this issue. The Commission determined that so many large residential washers were being imported that it posed a “serious injury to the domestic industry.”
To protect U.S. manufacturers who haven’t shifted the bulk of their production offshore (like General Electric and Whirlpool), the ITC commissioners unanimously proposed the implementation of a graduated tariff rate on imports of over 1.2 million large washing machine units.
That would off-set the unfair advantage Samsung and LG have gained in recent years, safeguarding our workers’ jobs and wages.
It’s a no-brainer.
Other countries have no trouble passing trade policies that put their own workers first. With disparate approaches like these, it’s no wonder the current U.S. trade deficit with South Korea stands at over $20 billion.
And without enforcement of U.S. trade laws, we will see more companies shipped jobs offshore. In the past few years alone, three manufacturing giants — Mondelez, Rexnord, and Brake Parts Inc. — moved their operations to Mexico.
Enough is enough. It’s time for the United States to stand up for itself.
Globalist free market proponents argue that American demand for cheap goods boosts foreign countries’ economies and benefits their populations. But those are not the people the American government exists to serve.
To keep his campaign pledge, President Trump should work with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to implement the ITC’s recommendations. Our government must crack down on predatory foreign tactics to, finally, put America first.
Amalia Halikias is a writer who covers issues of U.S. politics, cultural conservatism, law and technology.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.