Foxconn Technology is considering setting up a display-making plant in the United States, a move announced as President Donald Trump continued to press business leaders to return manufacturing jobs to the country.
Foxconn CEO Terry Gou told reporters at a company event Jan. 22 that Foxconn could invest $7 billion or more in a U.S. plant, according to Reuters, though he noted that the plan was not definite and remained subject to negotiations with U.S. regulators.
"There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish," Gou reportedly said. He added that the Taiwanese electronics maker has long been mulling U.S. manufacturing, but the issue came up again after Gou talked with Masayoshi Son, the CEO of Japan's SoftBank Group Corp, which owns a majority stake Sprint Corp., just before Son met with then President-elect Trump in New York
On Jan. 23, Trump singled out the Foxconn executive's comments in a meeting with business leaders at the White House, vowing that his administration would "expedite" any request to move manufacturing to the U.S.
"Foxconn is going to spend a tremendous amount of money on building a massive plant, and probably more than one," he told the attendees, including Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors Inc. and SpaceX and Wendell Weeks, the CEO of glassmaker Corning, which manufactures glass for Apple Inc.'s iPhones. "So that's what we want; we want people, we want to start making our products again. We don't want to bring them in, we want to make them here."
Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. is a prominent Apple supplier. Apple's manufacturing base in China has repeatedly prompted criticism from the new U.S. president.
But Foxconn's plans are likely rooted in technological advantages, not politics, argued Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus.
"They couldn't have decided this overnight, this is based on the progress in the last year or two, because with robotics, everything has changed," he said. Moving to robotic assembly and away from massive plants that became the norm for manufacturing in China also allows Foxconn to avoid long-running concerns about working conditions at the company's plants, Wadhwa added.
Foxconn's Gou reportedly told SoftBank's Son last month that the company's proposal, which would involve its Sharp Corp. unit, could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. Foxconn has existing operations in Pennsylvania, which is a state the company would prioritize, Gou said, according to Reuters.
In his Jan. 22 comments, Gou noted that the company would also remain active in China, despite questions about whether moves to manufacture outside the country could disrupt China's prominence in electronics manufacturing.