Whirlpool Corporation has become the latest U.S. company to retain lobbying counsel amid ongoing attempts by the Trump administration to renegotiate terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, signing a September pact with law and lobbying giant Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld for help with trade and tax issues on Capitol Hill as they relate to the historic 1994 trilateral trade accord.
The Benton Harbor, MI-based home appliance manufacturer, which markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air and other household brands, drew criticism in 2009 when it shuttered a plant in Evansville, Indiana and moved production of some of its refrigerators to Mexico. A plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which staffed about 5,000, closed two years later for the same reason.
In an unexpected reversal, the Fortune 500 company, which now maintains manufacturing facilities in the Mexican cities of Monterrey, Ramos Arizpe and Celaya, in 2014 moved production of some of its commercial front-load washing machines from Mexico to a plant in Clyde, Ohio, allegedly in a bid to save on shipping costs to U.S. consumers, who comprise an overwhelming majority of that product’s audience.
Trump, who once referred to NAFTA as “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” has threatened at times to remove the U.S. from the trade agreement altogether, sending U.S. business leaders with Mexico production facilities reeling.
Starbucks is another U.S. company in recent weeks to appoint lobbying counsel in response to the development, inking an agreement with public affairs firm McGuireWoods to advocate in Washington on behalf of NAFTA-related issues. The Seattle-based coffee giant employs more than 7,000 at 600 locations throughout Mexico and acquires a large amount of its coffee from Mexican producers.
The Whirlpool account will be managed by senior advisor Justin McCarthy, who formerly served in the George W. Bush administration as special assistant to the President for legislative affairs. Bush earlier appointed McCarthy as assistant U.S. trade representative for congressional affairs.