Obama, Lee Myung-bak
Visit General Motors Orion Assembly Plant
October 17, 2011
President Barack Obama used a factory visit on Friday to highlight
benefits for U.S. workers and the economy of the free-trade agreement
with South Korea ratified by Congress this week. President Obama brought
South Korea's president with him on a tour of a General Motors plant in
the midwest state of Michigan.
Barack Obama with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Detroit, Michigan, October 14, 2011
The visit was designed to spotlight two key achievements President
Barack Obama can now point to as he faces what he has acknowledged is an
uphill climb to re-election 2012.
Decisions he made early in his presidency helped rescue the U.S. auto
industry, saving tens of thousands of jobs, something he mentions in
virtually every campaign speech across the country.
Obama also made approval of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and
similar deals for Colombia and Panama a priority, though the road to
ratification by Congress was fraught with difficulties.
The plant in Orion, Michigan with its 1,750 workers was to have closed
under auto industry restructuring, but survived and now produces a
Chevrolet model originally engineered in South Korea.
With South Korean President Lee Myung-bak by his side, Obama repeated a
slogan he has often used about leveling the playing field and boosting
"If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais from Korea, then I know Koreans
should be able to buy some Fords, and Chryslers and Chevys that are made
right here in the United States of America," said President Obama.
The White House says the Korea trade deal will support at least 70,000
U.S. jobs, though critics assert it will have a minimal impact on
improving the nation's nine-percent unemployment.
Asked by a reporter if Obama could assure the U.S. auto industry that
American exports would be brought into parity with those from South
Korea, Press Secretary Jay Carney could not supply any figures, but said
the whole point is to open that market to U.S. automakers.
United Auto Workers President Bob King, who toured the plant with
President Obama, said changes the president insisted on ensure greater
access to the South Korean market and protect against "harmful surges"
of Korean automotive imports.
a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, and using the term "Motor City" to
describe nearby Detroit, President Lee sought to ease fears the
free-trade agreement will result in more jobs leaving the United States.
"I want to give you this promise to you, and that is that the [Korea -
U.S. Free Trade Agreement] will not take away any of your jobs, rather
it will create more jobs for you and your family, and it is going to
protect your jobs and this is the pledge that I give you today," said
President Lee Myung-bak.
President Obama will continue highlighting the success of his U.S. auto
industry rescue even as his major jobs legislation faces obstacles in
The bill was voted down by the U.S. Senate this week, but Obama vows to
continue pressing Congress to pass key parts of it, while Republicans
promote proposals they say will be more effective.