President Obama will use a trip to Detroit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak today as an opportunity to tout his administration’s bailout of the auto industry and highlight the newly passed trade deal between the United States and Korea.
The day after their official state visit in Washington, Obama and Lee will spend this afternoon at the General Motors facility in Lake Orion, Mich., where the Chevrolet Sonic is manufactured. The subcompact is the first that GM has built in the United States in more than 40 years. It’s also the only subcompact sold in the country that is built in the United States.
The Sonic was originally engineered for GM Korea. This is also where the president’s bailout of the auto industry comes into the play. The White House asserts that the Orion plant was scheduled to close its doors two years ago during GM’s bankruptcy restructuring, but the joint venture with GM Korea saved the plant and its 1,750 jobs.
The apparent success of the bailout is a point that Obama often hammers home as he raises campaign cash. “We had to go in and move quickly. And we did. And because we moved quickly, by the end of 2010, the economy was growing again. Because we moved quickly, the auto industry was safe. Because we moved quickly and effectively, we were able to stem some of the job loss,” the president said at a fundraiser last week in St. Louis.
Today’s trip comes two days after Congress passed a long-delayed trade agreement Korea. At Thursday’s state visit, both leaders praised the agreement, which was passed alongside pacts with Colombia and Panama, and stressed that it will create more jobs in both countries. Obama also said the deal will “level the playing field for American automakers.”
“The Sonic enterprise shows not just how the president’s decision to save the American auto industry is keeping plants open across the Midwest, it also illustrates how U.S.-Korea economic ties work for American workers,” according to the White House. “That’s what the Korea trade agreement does on a larger scale. The U.S.-Korea economic relationship is not just about exporting goods and services to Korea, it is about Korea investing in U.S. manufacturing.”
U.S. car exports is something Obama has mentioned often as he has traveled across the country in recent weeks to rally support for his stalled $447 billion jobs bill. “Just as Americans buy Hyundais and Kias, I hope that South Koreans will buy more Fords, Chryslers and Chevys,” Obama reiterated at a joint news conference will Lee Thursday.
The two leaders will tour the plant and deliver remarks while in Michigan. Obama will return to the White House later this afternoon.
The auto bailout has become an issue for Republicans on the campaign trail as well. Mitt Romney, who is from Michigan, has come under some fire for opposing the use of government funds to help U.S.-based car companies.