South Carolina, Home to New Samsung Factory, Is Disappointed by New Tariffs

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

South Carolina, a state that strongly backed President Donald Trump, isn't happy about his move to impose hefty tariffs on imported washing machines.

That is because Samsung Electronics Co. recently started production at a $380 million manufacturing plant in the state, hiring 600 employees and promising to expand as it increases production for the U.S. market.

Continue Reading Below

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and other GOP state leaders expressed concern that the tariffs announced Monday would slow production at the new factory and have a chilling effect on investment.

Gov. McMaster had traveled repeatedly to Washington, D.C., to lobby against the tariffs, telling the International Trade Commission last fall that Samsung is becoming a domestic industry. A spokesman said the governor is "obviously disappointed" and would continue to fight for South Carolina jobs.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican, said Monday that protectionist policies and tariffs, while politically popular, are economically dubious. "This is a mistake," he said.

U.S. trade officials said the tariffs are critical to protect American companies and to make good on the Trump administration's promise to put America first. The tariffs are aimed mainly at Asian manufacturers--Chinese makers of solar panels and South Korean producers of washing machines.

The washing-machine petition was filed by Whirlpool Corp., which is locked in competition with Samsung and LG Electronics Inc. of South Korea.

Once a major textile and apparel producer, South Carolina saw those industries dry up decades ago and has since turned to foreign investment to boost its economy, drawing factories from Boeing Co., Germany's BMW AG and Chinese textile maker Keer Group. Samsung was its latest catch.

South Carolina voters supported Mr. Trump, delivering a decisive victory in the 2016 primary and choosing him by 55%-41% over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election. Voters said President Trump's protectionist message resonated, particularly in the many former textile-producing communities that felt untouched by the manufacturing resurgence fueled by foreign investment and concentrated in the state's northwest.

State officials also fretted over a separate tariff announced Monday on solar-panel imports. Leaders of the S.C. Energy Caucus said the solar tariffs would likely hurt ratepayers who face a virtual monopoly and pay some of the highest electric rates in the U.S.

"We deserve better than this," said state Rep. Nathan Ballantine, the energy caucus chair and a Republican from suburban Columbia.

Republican state Rep. Rick Martin said Monday that the washing-machine tariffs were a blow to Newberry, which he represents and where residents had cheered the recent start of production at the new Samsung factory.

Mr. Martin said he is concerned that Samsung would slow its expansion in Newberry County, population 38,000.

"This meant the world to us, more jobs for our community that can help our community grow," Mr. Martin said. "Now young people are going to have to leave our community to find jobs."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 23, 2018 07:35 ET (12:35 GMT)

Continue Reading Below