[THE INVESTOR] Expressing bewilderment, Samsung officials in Seoul on Feb. 3 remained confused over a tweet by US President Donald Trump that praised the South Korean tech giant for considering building a stateside factory.
After news reports on Samsung’s plan to build a plant for home appliances in the US, Trump said in a Twitter message: “Thank you, @Samsung! We would love to have you!”
The South Korean company has neither tweeted back to Trump, nor denied the report.
Rather than give a direct answer, Samsung Electronics said its stance in considering building a plant remains the same, but nothing has been confirmed.
“The US is an important market for Samsung Electronics, and we have been making significant investments, including in Austin, Texas, where we have invested $17 billion to date in our semiconductor manufacturing facility,” Samsung said in a statement after Trump’s tweet.
“We continue to evaluate new investment needs in the US that can help us best serve our customers.”
Last month, Samsung said it would have a new plant in US as Trump demanded businesses build factories in the country. Trump also warned the new administration may impose taxes for products manufactured outside the US.
Korean companies including Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motor have plants in Mexico serving the US market with tax benefits granted by the North American Free Trade Agreement. If Trump renegotiates the deal, they are expected to be slapped with heavier tariffs, losing price competitiveness in the market.
The unexpected tweet went viral here, particularly among Korean tech giants and carmakers as they feel the pressure from Trump to make more investments on US soil.
“We feel pressured for (President Trump) thanking Samsung because nothing has been decided yet, but it could give the wrong impression that Samsung may have done something (as he wished),” an industry official said.
“New investment plans like building factories take a considerable time to review. But with the president making such a comment first, we could be viewed as withdrawing from a plan that we haven’t even decided yet.”
Meanwhile, other companies like Hyundai Motor and LG Electronics confirmed last month they would build new plants.
Hyundai Motor said it would invest $3.1 billion in the US over the next five years while LG said it would make a final decision by June on plans to build a plant there.
Trump, however, has mentioned the plans by neither Hyundai nor LG.
By Cho Chung-un/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Staff reporter Song Su-hyun contributed to this article. -- Ed.