The Trump administration announced Monday it would put large tariffs on Samsung refrigerators imported from South Korea, which South Carolina lawmakes say could hurt the company’s brand new plant in Newberry County.
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced Trump agreed with his office’s recommendations to put tariffs up to 20 percent on large residential washing machines imported by the South Korean company. The move was a blow to Gov. Henry McMaster and several members of Congress who worried about the impact on Samsung’s appliance plant near Newberry, where the company formally began production two weeks ago with over 600 employees and plans for over 1,000 eventually.
“We were unable to convince the people in Washington that there should not be– have a tariff placed on the next three years on the washing machines that they are bringing in while they’re starting production in Newberry,” McMaster told state business leaders with the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. “I thought it was a bad decision.”
“I went up and testified and argued but the facts, unfortunately, did not win the day,” he said. “But there’s always another day and that’s going to make things a little tougher on Samsung than they were expecting.”
“This is a mistake. If increasing tariffs were the road to prosperity, then a whole host of economically forgotten places around the world would be vibrant,” U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford said in a statement. “They are not. Increased tariffs have proved themselves to sound great but set countries on a financial road to ruin. This is shortsighted and will cost American jobs”
American appliance manufacturers, particularly Michigan-based Whirlpool, had sought the tariffs, arguing that Samsung was flooding the U.S. market with uncompetitively-cheap refrigerators. Monday’s decision was in line with Trump’s protectionist-minded campaign promise to crack down on Asian imports which undermine American manufacturers.
“The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Lighthizer said.
The decision frustrated Republicans, however, who normally oppose tariffs in favor of free markets. McMaster had traveled to Washington to testify against the tariffs, joined by U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, who represents the region in Congress. Norman said Monday he was disappointed with the White House’s decision. “This will hurt the American consumer and negatively impact jobs in Newberry,” he told the Charleston Post & Courier.