Biden twists knife of Inflation Reduction Act snub by boasting of Korean investment in US

Posted on : 2022-09-07 17:02 KST Modified on : 2022-09-07 17:02 KST
Working-level staff from multiple countries’ embassies to the US met last week to explore the possibility of cooperation on the Inflation Reduction Act issue
US President Joe Biden gives a speech for Labor Day while campaigning for the midterms in Wisconsin on Sept. 5. (AP/Yonhap News)
US President Joe Biden gives a speech for Labor Day while campaigning for the midterms in Wisconsin on Sept. 5. (AP/Yonhap News)

US President Joe Biden has treated South Korean companies’ large-scale investment in the US as one of his signature achievements. Despite controversy over American allies being discriminated against in subsidies for electric vehicles, Biden has hinted that he intends to stick to a protectionist line that emphasizes the motto “Made in America.”

“If you take a look, manufacturers all over the world are coming to the United States — from Korea, from Japan, from all over the world,” Biden said during a speech celebrating Labor Day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Monday.

“You know why the head of an outfit out of Korea told me they’re coming here? Because we have the safest environment and the best workers in the world,” the US president went on to say.

“Folks, it means we’re going to build the future in America with American workers in American factories using American-made products.”

Samsung Electronics has decided to invest US$17 billion in the US semiconductor sector. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won said during a visit to the White House in July that his company will spend around US$30 billion on semiconductors and electric vehicle batteries in the US. Chung Eui-sun, chairman of the Hyundai Motor Company, announced part of the company’s planned US$10.5 billion in US investment during a meeting with Biden while the US president was visiting Korea in May.

In this stump speech for the midterm elections in November, Biden said that one of his major accomplishments is the jobs created in high-tech industries through the investment of Korean companies. Biden boasted about making “nearly 10 million new jobs — more jobs than have ever been created at this point in any presidency in history.”

Biden’s speech took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the main swing states that are fought over by the Democratic and Republican parties. The same day, he delivered a speech to steelworkers near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is another swing state. That was the third time he’d visited Pennsylvania to make a speech in the past week.

Given Biden’s attitude and the fact that the midterms are barely two months away, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is likely to face an uphill battle as he tries to reverse US’ discrimination against foreign-made electric vehicles.

When South Korean Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun arrived in the US on Tuesday to raise issues about the US’ Inflation Reduction Act, he told reporters at the airport that the government will soon activate a ministerial channel with the US.

Ahn, who was planning to meet with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, said that he and Tai would be appropriate figures to manage that channel. “I believe that [Tai] is well aware of the severity of this issue,” Ahn said.

“Europe and Japan are basically in the same boat as us. We’ll be sharing our position [with them] and, if necessary, exploring forms of intergovernmental cooperation on matters such as taking various legal procedures.”

Working-level staff from Korea, Japan, Germany, the UK and Sweden’s embassies to the US met last week to confirm each other’s positions on this issue and to explore the possibility of cooperation.

“The Inflation Reduction Act will be a critical touchstone in Korea’s industrial and commercial relations with the US. We’ll send the message that this kind of thing mustn’t happen again as we continue to build the Korea-US industrial ecosystem. We’ll also do our best to find a satisfactory solution,” Ahn said.

By Lee Bon-young, Washington correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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