Manufacturing News

Tariffs forcing US TV plant closure

Move follows warnings by major automakers of possible job losses.

Swedish carmaker Volvo has warned about layoffs at its US plant in South Carolina due to the Trump administration's tariffs on China. It was a warning which was also made by German auto giant BMW. Now a TV maker in the state says it is closing its plant due to the tariffs.

Element TV Co will let 126 workers go, mostly on Oct 5. It will keep eight employees at the Fairfield County plant amid hopes it can reopen in three to six months, the company said in a letter to state employment officials on Monday.

The Trump administration imposed a 25 percent import tax in July that included Chinese components for TVs and video equipment.

"The layoffs and closure are a result of the new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed on many goods imported from China, including the key television components used in our assembly operations in Winnsboro," the company wrote to the state's Department of Employment and Workforce in a letter obtained by The State newspaper in Columbia.

Element opened around five years ago. Nikki Haley, South Carolina governor at the time and now the US ambassador to the United Nations, did a live video feed from the plant to mark its opening.

"We want to make sure that government is the first group to help you, not hurt you," Haley said. She promised 500 jobs, or about a quarter of the employees currently at the plant.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, one of US President Donald Trump's earliest supporters, said state and federal officials had talked about how tariffs can hurt the state.

"We have not convinced them of our point of view on every point, nor have they convinced us of theirs," McMaster told The Associated Press.

The Element plant is around 50 kilometers north of Columbia, the state capital. It is one of Fairfield's largest remaining employers, according to The State newspaper.

The county lost about 5,000 jobs last summer when construction was halted on two nuclear reactors. That ended a promised economic boon to the poor, rural county, according to the newspaper.

The state's automakers have warned that tariffs could lead to more job losses.

Volvo of Sweden has said tariffs could prevent it from reaching its goal of 4,000 workers by 2021 at its just-opened auto plant near Charleston.

German automaker BMW has warned Trump administration officials that some if not many of its 10,000 workers at its plant near Spartanburg and 35,000 at BMW suppliers could have their jobs at risk if tariffs continue.

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