Donald Trump took credit on Wednesday for a new manufacturing plant that iPhone assembler Foxconn says it plans to build in Wisconsin.
Trump emerged to applause during a White House ceremony after Foxconn chairman Terry Gou—joined by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, and Vice President Mike Pence—announced his company’s planned $10 billion investment in a new manufacturing plant somewhere in the Badger State.
Wisconsin will give the Taiwan-based company $3 billion in financial incentives to get the plant built, Walker said. The plant is expected to create about 3,000 jobs (paying in excess of $53,000 a year plus benefits), and could create as many as 13,000 jobs in the longer term if all goes well. It will be located “somewhere in southeastern Wisconsin,” but plans for the facility are still “under negotiation,” Trump said.
“This represents the return of LCD [liquid crystal display] manufacturing to the United States,” Trump said. “It has the potential to create many more manufacturing jobs in this country than we have seen in decades.”
Trump pointed out none of this would ever have happened without him.
“I would see Terry and I would say, ‘Terry you have to give us one of those massive places that you do such great work with,'” Trump said of Foxconn’s existing factories. “If I didn’t get elected, he definitely wouldn’t have been spending $10 billion dollars.”
“Terry Gou told me he really believes in America,” Trump added. “He has seen our efforts to remove unnecessary regulations on business; he’s been watching.”
Actually, Foxconn has been dangling the idea of building a large display manufacturing plant in the U.S. since at least 2014. However, the White House said Trump met personally with Gou during negotiations about the Wisconsin plant.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Trump also said that Apple CEO Tim Cook promised him that the company would be building three “big, beautiful” new plants in the U.S.—a puzzling claim in part given that Apple only owns one factory, in Ireland, opting instead to contract with companies like Foxconn. Apple declined to comment on Trump’s statement.
Not So Fast
The victory lap may be premature.
Not only is the Wisconsin plant “still under negotiation,” but Foxconn has a spotty record of following through on new plants it’s pledged to build around the world.
Foxconn said it would build a $30 million factory in Pennsylvania back in 2013, but no plant was ever built. In 2014, the company said it would invest $5 billion in India, but has so far not done so. Similar commitments in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil have fallen far short of promises.
The truth is, Gou has a habit of using splashy announcements like the one today as a way of putting pressure on the host state to offer up ever sweeter deal terms to make sure the factory is actually built, the jobs created. If the state fails to offer generous enough terms, Foxconn simply walks away.
Donald Trump knows the media value of appearing at the White House to declare a victory on jobs. Whether or not the jobs actually materialize is an abstract question for another day.