Korea's top business lobby seeks more influence in US

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Korea's top business lobby seeks more influence in US

People walk outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), as global supply chain disruptions continue to affect the American economy, Oct. 4, in New York City. AFP-Yonhap

KCCI considers establishing 1st liaison office in Washington D.C.

By Kim Yoo-chul

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) is considering opening up its first liaison office in Washington D.C., in a bid to defend the best interests of Korean companies in the United States, sources familiar with the issue told The Korea Times, Wednesday.

The KCCI is the country’s most-influential business lobby and is headed by SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won.

The main purpose of opening the office is to voice concerns in some pending and other outstanding issues from Korea’s standpoint and to appeal to U.S. politicians on why policy actions matter ― or don’t matter ― case-by-case, said one source. Lobbying is often criticized as a form of bribery. However, in the United States, lobbying is legal and the “Lobbying Disclosure Act,” enables federal lobbying if the activities are registered and disclosed.

The KCCI’s move comes as the prolonged pandemic and corresponding economic difficulties have been disrupting parts-oriented supply chains in the U.S., one of the top commercial markets for Korea.

The continued semiconductor chip shortage is having a grave impact on automotive, industrial and even end user products in the U.S. This situation has been leading U.S. national security experts to explore with its allies the best possible ways to address supply chain bottlenecks. The core point is that the U.S.’s underlying commercial industrial foundations are crucial to its security.

From Korea’s standpoint, given the country’s strong ties with the U.S., Korean companies, which operate manufacturing plants, aren’t in the position to turn a blind eye to the U.S. demands for confidential chip supply data. The question is: how can Korean companies protect their best interests amid such tough requests from Washington, in a unified and systematic manner?

When asked about the specific timeframe of the liaison office’s opening and plans for staffing, the source declined to comment.

“Because batteries and semiconductors are considered to have a substantial impact on U.S. national security, and given Korea’s strengths in these segments, lobbying to U.S. politicians will be of great importance, as lobbying offers greater access to politicians and acts as the right tool to speak out publicly on key issues,” a second source said.

Samsung Electronics operates massive semiconductor plants in the U.S. state of Texas and it is waiting for updates from the U.S. government regarding the company’s requests for tax benefits, before finalizing its $17-billion chip investment plant in a city near Austin, Texas.

LGES, the top-tier electric vehicle battery manufacturer, operates a joint battery plant with General Motors (GM) in the U.S. state of Ohio, and it is building its second battery plant with GM in the U.S state of Tennessee.

Additionally, SK Innovation (SKI) is building battery plants in the U.S. state of Georgia with financial assistance. It formed a joint venture with Ford to build battery and assembly lines in the U.S. states of Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively.

Recent reports from both Republican and Democratic parties raised concerns about the U.S. defense industry’s reliance on limited domestic suppliers, with the global supply chain being vulnerable to disruption, as well as about competitor country suppliers, a recent White House analysis said.

During a meeting with South Korean media in Washington D.C., early Wednesday (KST), researchers at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) warned that Samsung Electronics will be limited in terms of its participation in Washington-led public procurement programs if Samsung fails to share its key semiconductor supply chain data with the U.S. commerce department. The KEI’s public relations chief, Kwon Yong-wook, told reporters that the U.S. government was hoping to maintain its partnership with Samsung Electronics.

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