Apple supplier Foxconn all but scraps Trump-era $10bn factory pledge

Taiwan electronics manufacturer retreatS from a project the former US president called "the eighth wonder of the world"
Apple supplier Foxconn all but scraps Trump-era $10bn factory pledge

Former US President Donald Trump first announced the project to a great fanfare in 2017. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

Taiwan electronics manufacturer Foxconn — a large supplier to Apple's iPhone — is drastically scaling back a planned $10bn (€8.3bn) factory in Wisconsin, confirming its retreat from a project that former US President Donald Trump once called "the eighth wonder of the world".

Under a deal with the state of Wisconsin Foxconn will reduce its planned investment to $672m from $10bn and cut the number of new jobs to 1,454 from 13,000.

The Foxconn-Wisconsin deal was first announced to great fanfare at the White House in July 2017, with President Trump boasting of it as an example of how his "America First" agenda could revive US tech manufacturing.

For Foxconn, the investment promise was an opportunity for its charismatic founder and then-chairman, Terry Gou, to build goodwill at a moment when President Trump's trade policies threatened the company's cash cow: Building Apple's iPhones in China for export to America.

It would have been the largest investment in US history for a new location by a foreign-based company
Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer of electronic devices, proposed a 20-million-square-foot manufacturing campus in Wisconsin that would have been the largest investment in US history for a new location by a foreign-based company.

It was supposed to build cutting-edge flat-panel display screens for TVs. But industry executives, including some at Foxconn, were highly sceptical of the plan from the start, pointing out that none of the crucial suppliers needed for flat-panel display production were located anywhere near Wisconsin.

The plan faced local opposition too, with critics denouncing a taxpayer giveaway to a foreign company and provisions of the deal that granted extensive water rights and allowed for the acquisition and demolition of houses through eminent domain.

As of 2019, the village where the plant is located had paid just over $152m for 132 properties to make way for Foxconn, plus $7.9m in relocation costs. Foxconn said "original projections used during negotiations in 2017 have at this time changed due to unanticipated market fluctuations."

After abandoning its plans for advanced displays, Foxconn later said it would build smaller, earlier-generation displays in Wisconsin, but that plan never came to fruition either. 

— Reuters

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