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All eyes on new investment pledge as Korean biz leaders visit US

A South Korean business delegation made up of top executives will travel to Washington this week as local companies take steps to respond proactively to alleviate the growing trade pressure exerted by the Donald Trump administration, a corporate lobbying group said Sunday.

More than 50 business leaders from Samsung Electronics Co., Hyundai Motor and other South Korean firms are set to accompany President Moon Jae-in on his trip to US, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

The high profile visit comes as Asia's fourth-largest economy has been trying to reduce its trade surplus with the US and its two major firms have recently pledged to invest more than $3.3 billion in the North American country.

Moon's summit talks -- the first since his inauguration in May -- holds significance as it could set the tone of bilateral relations in trade as well as security and other issues.

The South Korean business executives are set to meet with their American counterparts in Washington on June 28 (US time) to explore new business opportunities, according to KCCI. Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun, Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun, and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won are among those that will be in the US capital.

It said South Korean companies will get attention as they may make future investment pledges during their trip.

"South Korean businessmen should make efforts to strengthen ties with American counterparts," a local businessman said, noting the bilateral free trade agreement issue and the deployment of an advanced US missile defense system in South Korea may become a thorny issue.

President Trump has repeatedly voiced his wish to renegotiate the FTA calling it a deal that stole American jobs.

New investment pledges, if announced, are expected to be hailed by Trump, who has vowed to create more jobs for US citizens.

There is speculation that Samsung Electronics Co. could unveil an investment plan for a new plant. The company has yet to make an official announcement.

In January, South Korea's largest automaker Hyundai Motor Group confirmed is plan to invest up to $3.1 billion in the US by 2021.

Currently, the group's two automakers - Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. -- each have a production facility in the US that together have an annual production capacity of about 710,000 cars.

In February, LG Electronics Inc., a major South Korean consumer appliance manufacturer, said it will build a washing machine plant in Tennessee by the first half of 2019. 

Besides such companies it remains unclear whether other South Korean firms will commit any fresh investments during Moon's trip to Washington.

"Greater economic cooperation at this stage could lessen potential strain in two-way ties that is a win-win arrangement for all sides," a KCCI insider said. (Yonhap)

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