05/23/2022, 15.18
SOUTH KOREA – UNITED STATES
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Biden opening doors for Hyundai’s electric cars

by Guido Alberto Casanova

South Korea’s giant carmaker inked major investment deals in the United States during US president’s Seoul stop on his Asia tour. A new plant in Georgia is expected to open by 2025. The US administration's goal is to reach 40 per cent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – US President Joe Biden is currently on the South Korean leg of an Asia tour that will take him to Japan with the US-China rivalry looming not too far in the background.

In Seoul, Biden's agenda has been fully charged, from a press conference at the Samsung plant to a visit of the Osan military base, not to mention his meeting with his South Korean counterpart, newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol.

In his address, the US leader stressed South Korea's key role in global semiconductor production, and backed more US-ROK joint military exercises to deter North Korea.

For his part, President Yoon said that his country wants to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a new US-led Pacific economic initiative that Biden plans to launch in Japan.

Although less visible, the visit included meetings designed to boost economic cooperation. On Saturday, the US-Korea roundtable was held in Seoul between US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and South Korea’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Lee Chang-yang, plus representatives from several companies from the two countries.

"Amid the changing global economic environment, cooperation and joint efforts between governments and companies is urgently needed,” Lee said.

As part of his attempt to reshape global supply chains, especially in the emerging technology sector, Biden is opening the door to South Korean companies. To this end, the US president met with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Eui-sun.

The carmaker, which is a among the top sellers in the world, last year pledged US$ 7.4 billion in smart mobility investments. With this visit, it plans to boost its commitments.

After the tête-à-tête with Biden, which lasted about 50 minutes instead of the scheduled 10, Chung said that Hyundai would invest US$ 5 billion in robotics, urban air mobility, self-driven vehicles and artificial intelligence.

He also stressed that his company is ready to help the Biden administration achieve its goal of “40 to 50 percent zero-emission EV sales in the United States by 2030.”

On Friday, Hyundai’s chairman signed a deal with the governor of Georgia to invest US$ 5.5 billion in that State to open its first exclusively electric vehicle and battery manufacturing plant in the United States by 2025.

Hyundai already owns a plant in Alabama that manufactures combustion engine cars but will upgrade its existing assembly line to make electric car later this year.

Hyundai’s investments are part of a global expansion strategy. The South Korean conglomerate (which includes Kia) aims to sell 3.23 million EVs by 2030, or 12 per cent of the world market.

The United States, with the world's third-largest car market, is a central part of this strategy.

Moreover, Hyundai is not alone. SK, LG, Samsung, Posco and Lotte are all following a similar path, investing in the US electric car market, particularly in the battery component.

The reshaping of global supply chains is also taking this turn.

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