ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich.--Celebrating this week’s passage of the free-trade agreement with South Korea, President Obama on Friday visited a General Motors plant with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
The plant, which produces Chevy Sonics with one quarter of their parts from South Korea, was slated for closure before the auto bailout and the G.M. restructing championed by the Obama administration.
“There were a lot of politicians who said it was not worth the time and not worth the money” to rescue the auto industry, the president said to a standing ovation. “Two years ago it looked like this plant was going to have to shut its doors...I refused to let that happen.”
“We made a deal with the auto companies: If you are willing to retool and restructure and get more efficient, get better, get smarter -- then we’re going to invest in your future. Today I can stand here and say the investment paid off.”
Wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, President Myung-bak praised the plant’s employees for “building excellent cars.”
“I’m confident this factory is going to continue and make good cars and your lives are going to be good and I’m confident in the future,” he told the workers.
Myung-bak promised that U.S. jobs would not be outsourced with the passage of this week’s trade agreement.
“I’m here with President Obama today because I want to give this promise to you. The [trade pact] will not take away any of your jobs,” Myung-bak said. “Rather it will create more jobs for you and your family and protect your jobs and this is the pledge I give you today.”
“Soon Motor City will come back again and revive it’s past glory and I have all the confidence in the world that you’re going to do that.”
The plant produces the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact, which the White House said is the first subcompact sold in the U.S. that is built in this country.
About 25 percent of the car’s parts come from South Korea and the new trade agreement is expected to produce as many as 70,000 jobs in the U.S., Obama said.