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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Tuesday upheld hefty tariffs on Samsung and LG brand residential washing machines manufactured in China, saying these products were sold below cost, harming American appliance makers including Whirlpool Corp (WHR.N).
The U.S. International Trade Commission voted unanimously to impose final duties on the products of up to 52.5 percent following a Commerce Department probe last year.
The decision locks the duties in place for five years, but Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) and LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) have largely shifted production for the U.S. market away from China to Thailand and Vietnam.
The ruling is the latest in a long-running tariff battle between Whirlpool and its South Korean archrivals. In 2012, a previous probe by the U.S. Commerce Department found that Samsung and LG washers made in South Korea and Mexico were sold below production costs in the United States or benefited from unfair subsidies.
The South Korean companies subsequently shifted production for the U.S. market to China.
In Dec. 7 testimony before the trade commission, lawyers for LG and Samsung said that the companies were now producing washers for the U.S. market in Thailand and Vietnam. In the case of Samsung, that production began in June 2016, about a month before the Commerce Department issued preliminary anti-dumping duties against Chinese-made LG and Samsung washers.
"This is a gratifying win for American manufacturing, particularly our more than 3,000 employees at our factory in Clyde, Ohio, who make clothes washers for American consumers,” said Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig said.
The Commerce Department probe last year stemmed from a petition by Whirlpool Corp (WHR.N) over imports of washers manufactured by LG and Samsung in China. In 2015, imports of such washers from China were valued at an estimated $1.1 billion.
Reporting by Eric Walsh, David Lawder and Tim Ahmann.; Editing by Susan Heavey and David Gregorio