Foxconn mulls display-making plant in U.S.

Plans by Foxconn to build a display-making plant in the United States apparently are on the table after Foxconn’s chairman and chief executive Terry Gou talked with SoftBank head Masayoshi Son in December.

Gou told reporters Sunday that Taiwan-based Foxconn had been considering such a move for years, but the issue came up when Son, a Foxconn business partner and head of Sprint's parent company, talked with Gou before a December meeting that Son had with President Donald Trump. Trump in December also took credit for Son’s commitment to invest $50 billion in the U.S. to create 50,000 jobs, including 5,000 new positions at Sprint.

At the time, Son inadvertently disclosed information showing Foxconn’s logo and an unspecified additional $7 billion investment, The New York Times reported. The disclosure led Foxconn to issue a brief statement saying it was in preliminary discussions to expand its American operations, but it didn’t elaborate. Foxconn’s factories in China manufacture most of Apple’s iPhones.

“I thought it was a private conversation, but then the next morning, it was exposed,” Gou said, according to Reuters. “There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish.”

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If it does come to fruition, it’s not clear exactly where the plant would be located. Foxconn has existing operations in Pennsylvania and priority would be given there, depending on land, water, power infrastructure and other conditions, according to reports. Any move also would need to be planned with its Sharp unit, which Foxconn agreed to take over last year.

The envisioned facility could create 30,000 to 50,000 jobs and would bring manufacturing closer to the largest market for iPhones and iPads. The plant could even be a joint investment with Apple, the Nikkei Asian Review (NAR) reported Monday.

The NAR reported in November that Apple had asked Foxconn to consider making iPhones in the U.S., and that Foxconn and Japanese subsidiary Sharp were exploring construction of a U.S. display plant.  

However, Foxconn could face protest from China, where it is one of the single largest private employers. Gou also said the rise of protectionism is unavoidable, and it’s clear that politics would underpin economic development going forward.