Korea Inc. pleads its case in Washington

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Korea Inc. pleads its case in Washington


Eom Chi-sung, secretary general of the Federation of Korean Industries, right, explains how Korean companies have helped improve the U.S. economy to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a state dinner in Washington on Monday. [FEDERATION OF KOREAN INDUSTRIES]

A delegation of executives from Korea’s largest conglomerates is lobbying Washington on behalf of Korea Inc. amid tough protectionist trade measures from the Trump administration.

The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), a big-business lobbying group, said in a statement Tuesday that it sent high-ranking executives from companies that have invested in the United States to persuade Wilbur Ross, the U.S. secretary of commerce, and Kay Cole James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, on contributions that Korean businesses have made to the American economy.

The companies include Hanwha Group, Hyundai Motor, Korean Air, Lotte Chemical, Posco and SK Group.

Korean conglomerates have been perturbed about efforts by the Trump administration to revise the two countries’ free trade agreement and impose higher tariffs and tighter import guidelines on Korean washing machines, solar panels, steel and aluminum.

According to the FKI, the delegation expressed concerns that the friction over trade could result in weaker ties between the two countries and stressed that Korean companies have contributed to the U.S. economy by expanding investment and creating jobs after Trump took office. Up until the third quarter last year, Korea’s direct investment in the United States reached a record $13 billion, a year-on-year increase of 65 percent, according to FKI data.

While full-year data is yet to be released, an FKI spokesperson said the group expects fourth-quarter investment to also have increased significantly.

In terms of job creation, Samsung Electronics expects to add 950 jobs over the next five years with its new South Carolina factory set to open this year. LG Electronics’ new washing machine factory in Tennessee is expected to create 600 jobs, including in its construction.

The delegation on Tuesday participated in the 2018 Invest in America! Summit held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss the benefits and challenges of foreign investment in the country.

“We hope the delegation can bring a clue to resolving the trade friction between the two countries,” said Eom Chi-sung, secretary general of the FKI. “We will offer full support in easing trade-related pressure from the United States by strengthening ties with opinion leaders in the country, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Foundation, Korea Society and Asia Society.”

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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