President Obama traveled to Detroit today to tout the success of his administration’s bailout of the auto industry and to highlight the job-creating potential of the newly-passed Korean trade deal. However, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who was along for the field trip, clearly stole the show.
Wearing a bright blue Detroit Tigers baseball hat, Lee walked on stage at the General Motors plant in Lake Orion, Mich., to cheers and applause.
“As you can see, President Lee is a pretty good politician,” Obama joked. “He knows how to get on your good side.”
Lee, a former Hyundai CEO, highlighted how the trade deal will help revive the American auto industry and reassured workers that the agreement will not ship their jobs overseas.
“I am here with President Obama today because I want to give this promise to you, and that is that the KORUS FTA will not take away any of your jobs; rather, it will create more jobs for you and your families, and it is going to protect your jobs. And this is the pledge that I give you today,” Lee said.
“Motor City is going to come back again, and it’s going to revive its past glory. And I have all the confidence in the world that you are going to do that,” he added.
Obama agreed, saying the pact was a “win-win” for both countries that will ultimately “lead to more jobs, more opportunity for both nations.”
“Even though, you know, he’s a Hyundai guy,” Obama said of Lee. “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.”
The day after their official state visit at the White House, Obama and Lee spent the afternoon touring the GM facility where the Chevrolet Sonic is manufactured, a car that was originally engineered for GM Korea. The White House asserts that the Orion plant, which was scheduled to close its doors two years ago during GM’s bankruptcy restructuring, was brought back from the brink by a joint venture with GM Korea, ultimately saving the jobs of the 1,750 workers.
The subcompact car went on to become the first that GM has built in the U.S. in over 40 years and the only one sold in the country that is built in the U.S.
Touting the success of his decision to bail out the auto industry, Obama said: “Two years ago, it looked like this plant was going to have to shut its doors. All these jobs would have been lost; the entire community would have been devastated. And the same was true for communities all across the Midwest. And I refused to let that happen.
“When I took office, I was determined to rebuild this economy based on what this country has always done best: not just buying and consuming, but building, making things, selling those goods all around the world stamped with three proud words: ‘made in America.’” Obama added.