Apple achieved another protectionist victory Tuesday in its ongoing battle with South Korea’s Samsung when the Obama Administration decided not to veto an import ban on certain older model Samsung smartphones and tablets.
This would not have been news except for a recent Administration decision to veto a similar ban on certain Apple products. The last time any Administration vetoed a ban on import and sale of a product was 1987. The Obama Administration’s inconsistent decisions favoring American companies and lack of transparency on its decision-making process extends an unprecedented level of executive overreach that undermines free enterprise and consumer choice.
On Tuesday, the Obama Administration affirmed an August decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission to block some imports of Samsung’s mobile units, the company’s largest product category. Americans will not receive access to these products, resulting in decreased consumer choice and market competition. This ban creates uncertainty for market penetration of any new phones—including a curved smartphone Samsung released the following day.
The decision to enforce the Samsung ban while overturning Apple’s is the last step in a murky process that has resulted in preferential treatment and market distortion. As noted back in August, a discriminatory decision like this would be contrary to American principles of free trade and open markets. The South Korean trade ministry has already issued its opposition to these decisions.
The World Trade Organization has warned that rising protectionist policies are harming the global economy. Imported products support American jobs and trade freedom. Barriers to foreign products mean increased costs for United States citizens and undermine the country’s role as a leader of free trade and entrepreneurship.
Further, a responsible Administration would show respect for the other branches of government. Instead, we have seen the rise of the administrative state and recent exercises of questionable executive authority. Decisions on such matters should promote free trade and open competition, resulting in substantial economic benefits to foreign and American companies alike. At the very least, the Administration should be open and transparent as to why it made these conflicting decisions.