Obama is set to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at General Motors' Orion Township, Michigan, plant on Friday, where the American President will "give remarks on the trade agreement with South Korea that will open up economic opportunities and support jobs on both sides of the Pacific."
The agreement, which the administration estimates pump as much as $10 to $11 billion into the U.S. economy from South Korea, is designed to help open up the notoriously closed Asian new car market. South Korean buyers favor domestically built cars, a practice likely encouraged by high import duties on foreign-made products.
But the agreement is already controversial because some economists, including the U.S. International Trade Commission, say that it will be more beneficial to Korean automakers looking to sell cars in the U.S.
Obama and Lee will meet at Orion because it builds the Chevrolet Sonic (pictured), a subcompact primarily designed by GM's Korean subsidiary. GM also builds the car in Korea for that market, although the Orion plant is the only facility building subcompact cars in the United States.
Ahead of Obama and Lee's meeting outside of Detroit, three top Obama administration officials will visit Ford and GM plants in Southeast Michigan today.
On the agenda are visits to Ford's Wayne plant, which builds the Focus, and GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which builds the Chevrolet Volt.
The visitors? Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Deputy Director Gary Guzy and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator David Strickland
The visit is designed to highlight the production of fuel-efficient cars in the United States, although both plants are the subject of some controversy. Neither the Focus nor the Volt is selling in especially strong numbers. Ford says that Focus production has been hampered by limited parts supply, while Chevrolet has intentionally restricted the number of markets for its Volt until its servicing and production infrastructure is ready for a nation-wide roll-out.
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