Biden hails US$22 billion investment by South Korea's SK Group

US President Joe Biden (left) waves to SK Group officials during their virtual meeting at the White House. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday (July 26) hailed progress in the US bid to revamp its 21st century economy after huge South Korean group SK announced a US$22 billion (S$30 billion) investment in US semiconductor and other cutting edge industries.

"This pathbreaking announcement represents clear evidence that the United States, Korea, and its allies are back and winning the technology competition of the 21st century," Biden said in a virtual meeting at the White House with the top executives from SK Group, South Korea's second largest conglomerate.

"America is the key destination for advanced technologies," he added, stressing that the investment signaled success for his broader policy of "working with our allies."

The announcement came just before the meeting where Biden, who is recovering from a Covid infection, appeared on video, while SK chairman Chey Tae-won joined other executives and senior White House officials in person.

The conglomerate said in a statement it plans to "increase its new investment in the United States by US$22 billion in areas including semiconductors, green energy, and bioscience, creating tens of thousands of new high-tech, high-paying American jobs."

"This is in addition to SK's recently announced investment of US$7 billion to build two new gigafactories in Tennessee and Kentucky as part of a joint venture with Ford Motor Company," the statement said.

According to a White House spokesman, SK Group's growing commitment reflects a push to rebuild US-based manufacturing and supply chains, which have been severely disrupted by fallout from the global Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns.

"From the beginning of his administration, President Biden has focused on an American industrial strategy to rebuild our infrastructure and our supply chains here at home, drawing good-paying manufacturing jobs back to America," the spokesman said.

"This announcement by SK Group is also another proof point of the success of the administration's efforts to create more resilient and secure supply chains and outcompete the rest of the world in the technologies of the future," he added.

The Department of Commerce says that foreign investment reached nearly US$334 billion in 2021, the peak since 2016. Manufacturing accounted for the biggest share of any industry, at US$121 billion.

The Biden administration is pushing Congress to quickly pass a proposed US$52 billion subsidy package for boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturers, warning that reliance on foreign producers amounts to a national security risk.

Speaking Monday to senior economic and national security staff, as well as representatives from manufacturers and a trade union, Biden said government backing for domestic producers means the United States will "be able to stay in the game."

"Congress must pass this Bill as soon as possible," he said, citing both the economic and national security "imperative" of securing production of the tiny components needed for everything from smart phones to cars and weapons.

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