NEWBERRY — South Carolina and Samsung officials on Friday celebrated the first washing machines made at the company’s first U.S. appliance manufacturing plant, even as the Trump administration eyes new tariffs on the South Korean manufacturer that Gov. Henry McMaster calls bad for the state and the country.
The event came less than seven months after officials announced plans to locate in Newberry, invest $380 million in a former Caterpillar factory and create 1,000 jobs by 2020. The plant already employs more than 540 workers — most of them local residents, according to Samsung.
The remodel involved adding more than 151,000 square feet and pouring concrete up to 20 feet thick to support the heavy machinery, said Tim Baxter, CEO of Samsung North America.
“This is what normally takes most companies 18 months to do, and we’re just getting started,” Baxter said. “We’re starting as a washing machine facility and creating an innovation hub. That’s our dream.”
Hyun Suk Kim, president of Samsung Electronics, called the high-tech plant one of the “best of the best factories in the world.”
“Let’s make sure nothing, nothing slows us down,” he said.
That’s exactly what the proposed tariffs would do, McMaster said after the official ribbon cutting.
American appliance giant Whirlpool has pressed the Trump administration to impose tariffs on large residential washing machines made by Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG, arguing that a surge in imports has harmed domestic producers. The U.S. International Trade Commission agreed with them in November, recommending a graduated tariff over the next three years.
McMaster, along with members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation, is urging the administration to reject any tariff. The Republican governor said there’s no timeline on a decision, but it’s ultimately President Donald Trump’s to make.