Washing machines reveal how trade and competition are linked | The Economist

Washing machines reveal how trade and competition are linked

The saga of Whirlpool's efforts to secure protection

AMERICAN WASHING-MACHINE makers received a parting gift from President Donald Trump. Days before leaving office, he extended tariffs on imported machines by two years. The move was a victory for Whirlpool, an appliance-maker that has sought protection for nearly a decade. The saga is a case study of the impact of protectionism on competition at home.

American businesses can ask the government for three types of protection from foreign rivals: anti-dumping duties, if imports are being sold below cost; countervailing duties, if foreign competition is subsidised; or safeguard tariffs, if imports are surging. Petitions succeed around 60% of the time; in 2016 just over 7% of America's product lines were affected by a temporary trade barrier. (That compares with about 4% in the European Union.)

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