South Korea, China protest against US tariffs on washing machines, solar panels

US President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Jan 22, dealing a blow to South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.
US President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Jan 22, dealing a blow to South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS, NYTIMES) - South Korea said on Tuesday (Jan 23) the government will complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about a US decision to slap tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, calling the action "excessive" and "regrettable".

"The United States has opted for measures that put political considerations ahead of international standards," South Korea's trade minister Kim Hyun Chong said in a meeting with industry officials on Tuesday.

"The government will actively respond to the spread of protectionist measures to defend national interests," he said.

China on Tuesday hinted it could take a similar approach.

“With regard to the wrong measures taken by the United States, China will work with other WTO members to resolutely defend our legitimate interests,” its Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

The ministry said it expressed strong dissatisfaction regarding the US tariffs, adding that the U.S. decision further deteriorates global trade environment.

China hopes the United States will refrain from using trade remedies and that China would resolutely safeguard its interests, the ministry said in a post on its microblog.

US President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Monday, dealing a blow to South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.

 
 
 

The decisions in the two "Section 201" safeguard cases came after the US International Trade Commission (ITC) found that both imported products were "a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers."

The tariffs being imposed on washing machines exceeded the harshest recommendations from ITC members, while the solar tariffs were lower than domestic producers had hoped for.

 

Trump ignored a recommendation from the ITC to exclude South Korean-produced washing machines from LG from the tariffs.

The United States will impose a 20 per cent tariff on the first 1.2 million imported large residential washers in the first year, and a 50 per cent tariff on machines above that number. The tariffs decline to 16 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in the third year.

A 30 per cent tariff will be imposed on imported solar cells and modules in the first year, with the tariffs declining to 15 per cent by the fourth year. The tariff allows 2.5 gigawatts of unassembled solar cells to be imported tariff-free in each year.

"The latest safeguard measures are in violation to WTO rules," Kim said.

Both Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics expressed concern over the new tariffs, saying they would hurt American consumers and jobs.

LG Electronics shares ended up 0.5 per cent after an earlier plunge, while Samsung Electronics was up 1.9 per cent in line with the South Korean market’s 1.4 per cent gain.