Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Hung out to dry twice, Tennessee city stumped by Trump’s washer tariffs

By David Lawder, Reuters | Jan 29, 2018

CLARKSVILLE  - When President Donald Trump imposed steep tariffs on imported washing machines last week it was a “Not Again” moment for officials in this north Tennessee city that has lost jobs to an international trade dispute before.

The move threatens to stunt the launch of a new LG Electronics  washing machine factory under construction in Clarksville, just four years after the U.S.-China trade fight over solar panels scuttled a nearby $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor polysilicon plant.

“It’s like déjà vu for Clarksville, to say ‘how can this be happening twice to us,’” the city’s mayor, Kim McMillan, told Reuters.

She said that the city government was scrambling to help the South Korean manufacturer accelerate its production launch by ensuring that utilities and infrastructure are quickly put in place at the factory site and expediting approvals.

“We’ve got to do whatever we can to make sure that LG is able to still open their facility and hire people,” McMillan added. “We don’t want to see a repeat of what happened with Hemlock where they can’t open the plant.”

At stake is an appliance manufacturing complex that could eventually employ thousands of workers and which the state of Tennessee and the local community supported with some $23 million in grants. The 310-acre site an hour north of Nashville has room for three additional buildings identical to the plant’s $250 million, 600-job first phase.

Trump’s decision to impose 20 percent to 50 percent tariffs on washer imports and parts has local officials asking what his “America First” stands for: supporting all U.S. manufacturing jobs or just favoring traditional American brands over foreign rivals. Labor statistics show that foreign companies have been the source of the majority of new manufacturing jobs since the 2009 recession.

LG told retailers on Wednesday it would raise prices in response to the tariffs. That could dent its market share, reducing initial output and employment, said spokesman John Taylor.

Construction crews were working 24 hours a day on the site last week after LG said earlier it would bring forward its production launch a second time again to the fourth quarter of 2018.

The washer tariffs are the culmination of a decade-long campaign by Whirlpool Inc  against what it saw as unfair pricing and “country hopping” by LG and Samsung to avoid anti-dumping duties.

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