By Jenna Gibson
“Thank you, @Samsung! We would love to have you!” Donald Trump wrote on his personal Twitter account, linking to a story about a possible plan for the tech company to build a factory for home appliances in the United States.
The article called the announcement by Samsung “A win-win,” saying that “Companies can grab headlines with news of even considering bringing production to the U.S., and the Trump White House benefits from the ability to take credit. These moves may not add up to significant job growth, but it’s hard to beat the PR.”
Trump’s tweet, which was sent only half an hour after the article was posted, may lend credence to their theory.
Post-inauguration, Trump hasn’t yet turned his attention toward Korea, focusing mainly on domestic issues and trade with neighboring Mexico. But trade with the ROK was a regular component of his campaign addresses.
“We spend a fortune on defending South Korea. Now I order thousands and — thousands of television sets here, they come from South Korea. They make so much. They’re making a fortune. They’re a behemoth,” Trump said during the CNN-Telemundo Republican debate last February.
Samsung – which makes some of the televisions Trump may be referring to – already manufactures semiconductors at a plant in Austin, Texas in addition to its facilities in South Korea. Samsung has the largest Korean investment in the United States, and Korea as a whole is the 5th fastest growing source of Foreign Direct Investment into the country.
The electronics giant is hardly the only Korean company to consider moving more production to the United States in an effort to head off criticism from the new President – last week, Hyundai Motor Group announced that they plan to increase U.S. investment by 50 percent over the next five years, and may build a new plant to supplement the factory they currently have in Montgomery, Alabama. The company also applied for membership with the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea this year for the first time since 2008.
LG is also considering building a new plant in Tennessee for its TV and home appliances. “This is something that has been under consideration for years at LG, but the current political situation is simply accelerating that timeline for a decision,” according to a source close to the company told Reuters.
On a larger scale, the Korean government has indicated that they will encourage more imports from the United States to balance some of Seoul’s trade surplus. As part of this plan, the finance ministry announced that they will begin importing more U.S. shale gas to meet the country’s energy needs.
Whether Samsung goes through with plans to begin manufacturing appliances in the United States or just wants to stave off the ire of the White House remains to be seen. But the 60,000+ likes Trump’s one tweet got within hours of posting certainly can’t hurt either way.
Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.
Photo from Michael Newman’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.