South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, on an unusual field trip with President Barack Obama to a Michigan auto plant, promised U.S. autoworkers Friday that a new trade deal will be all good news for American workers and job security.
Wearing a Detroit Tigers cap and sounding as boosterish about U.S. industry as any American politician, Lee told workers at General Motors Co.'s Orion assembly plant that he knew some had concerns that the new U.S.-South Korea trade deal could result in their jobs being exported.
"But let me tell you one thing: That is not true. I am here with President Obama today because I want to give this promise to you," Lee said. The trade pact "will not take away any of your jobs. Rather, it will create more jobs for you and your family. And it is going to protect your jobs. And this is the pledge that I give you today."
The joint visit to the Detroit area-plant, where the Chevrolet Sonic is being built with Korean parts, came after Lee spent Thursday in Washington for a state visit, arriving just hours after Congress pushed the long-delayed trade deal through.
The auto component was one of the hardest-fought elements, coming together after negotiators overcame U.S. auto industry complaints that previous efforts at a deal failed to do enough to lift South Korea's barriers to U.S.-made cars.
Obama's visit with Lee -- his first trip outside Washington with a visiting head of state -- was meant to underscore that the deal would be a boon to the U.S. auto industry. Obama promised "more jobs, more opportunity for both nations," and said that Koreans should be buying Chryslers and Chevys just as American consumers snap up Hyundais.
Lee added his vote of confidence, assuring workers in this state hard-hit by Asian car imports: "Soon, folks, Motor City is going to come back again and it's going to revive its past glory, and I have all the confidence in the world that you are going to do that."
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