SEOUL, South Korea — President Joe Biden addressed business and security interests on Sunday as he wrapped up a three-day visit to South Korea, showing Hyundai’s commitment to invest at least $10 billion in electric vehicles and related technologies in the United States.
Before visiting US and South Korean troops monitoring the rapidly evolving North Korean nuclear threat, Biden said the US was ready for any provocation Kim Jong Un might deliver.
Hyundai’s investment includes $5.5 billion for an electric vehicle and battery plant in Georgia.
Appearing with Biden, Hyundai CEO Euisun Chung said Sunday his company would spend an additional $5 billion on artificial intelligence for self-driving vehicles and other technologies.
“Electric vehicles are good for our climate goals, but they’re also good for jobs,” Biden said. “And they’re good for business.”
The major U.S. investment by a South Korean company reflects how the United States and South Korea are leveraging their longstanding military ties into a broader economic partnership.
Biden said he was not concerned about possible provocation by North Korea during his tour of the region.
“We’re ready for anything North Korea does,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question. “We explained how we would react to anything they do, so I’m not worried, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”
The US president has made strengthening economic cooperation with South Korea a priority, saying on Saturday that “this will bring our two countries even closer, cooperate even more closely than we already do, and help strengthen our supply chains.” supplies, secure them against shocks and give our economies a competitive edge.
The pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February have forced a deeper rethink of national security and economic alliances. The coronavirus outbreaks have led to shortages of computer chips, automobiles and other goods that the Biden administration says can ultimately be solved by having more manufacturing domestically and with trusted allies.
Biden’s Sunday meeting with the Hyundai chief comes after the president stopped earlier at a computer chip factory run by Samsung, the Korean electronics giant that plans to build a $17 billion production plant. dollars in Texas.
Hyundai’s Georgian plant is expected to employ 8,100 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles a year. Construction is expected to begin early next year with production beginning in 2025 near the unincorporated town of Ellabell.
But the Hyundai factory shows there are also compromises as Biden pushes through with his economic agenda.
Earlier in his term, the president tried to tie electric vehicle production to automakers with unionized workers. Under a $1.85 trillion spending proposal last year that stalled in the Senate, Biden wanted additional tax credits to go to buyers of electric vehicles made by unionized factories. It would have given a boost to the unionized auto plant owned by General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV at a crucial time when union membership nationwide has been steadily declining.
During Samsung’s visit, Biden called on Korean companies building factories in the United States to hire unionized workers. In addition to its upcoming factory in Texas, Samsung has reached an agreement with Stellantis to build an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in the United States.
“I urge Samsung and Stellantis and any company investing in the United States to partner with our most skilled, dedicated, and committed workers you can find anywhere in the world: members of American unions,” he said. he declared.
So far, there is no guarantee that workers at Hyundai’s Georgia plant will be unionized.
Katie Byrd, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s press secretary, noted in an email that the state is “right to work,” which “means workers may not be required to join union or making payments to a union as a condition of employment. »
A Hyundai spokesperson did not respond to an email asking if the Georgia plant would be unionized. A senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said there was no contradiction between Biden encouraging investors to embrace union labor while his administration does “all it can” to encourage investment and create jobs in the United States.
Before meeting the Hyundai CEO, Biden attended mass at his hotel in Seoul with White House staffers. Biden will also meet with service members and military families at Osan Air Base and address U.S. and Korean troops. Biden and Korean President Yoon Sook Yeol announced on Saturday that they would consider expanding joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
The push for deterrence by Biden and Yoon, which is less than two weeks away from his presidency, marks a shift in leadership from their predecessors. President Donald Trump had considered abandoning the exercises and expressed affection for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And South Korea’s last president, Moon Jae-in, remained committed to dialogue with Kim until the end of his term despite repeated rebuffs from the North.
Biden decided to skip a visit to the demilitarized zone on the northern and southern border, a regular stop for US presidents when visiting Seoul. Instead, Biden, who had visited the DMZ as vice president, was more interested in visiting Osan to see a “where the rubber hits the road” facility for US and South Korean troops providing security in the area. Korean peninsula, the White House national security adviser said. Jake Sullivan.
Yoon campaigned on the promise to strengthen relations between the United States and South Korea. He reiterated at a Saturday dinner honoring Biden that his goal was to advance relations “beyond security concerns” with North Korea, which have long dominated relations.
“I will try to design a new future vision for our alliances with you, Mr. President,” Yoon said.
Biden will travel to Tokyo later on Sunday. On Monday, he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and outline his vision for negotiating a new trade deal called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
A central theme of the trip, Biden’s first to Asia as president, is to tighten U.S. alliances in the Pacific to counter China’s influence in the region.
But within the Biden administration, a debate is ongoing over whether to lift some of the $360 billion in Trump-era tariffs on China. Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said some of the tariffs hurt American businesses and consumers more than China.
Sullivan said the president’s national security and economics teams are still considering “how to move beyond the business approach of the previous administration.”
On Tuesday, Japan will host Biden at a summit for the Quad, a four-nation strategic alliance that also includes Australia and India. The American president will then return to Washington.
before visiting US troops monitoring the rapidly evolving nuclear threat from North Korea.