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Politics

Foxconn's Gou heads to US to salvage Wisconsin tax breaks

Negotiating touch in spotlight amid Taiwan presidential candidate's bid

TAIPEI -- Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou appears headed for the U.S., looking to discuss the company's $10 billion LCD plant planned in Wisconsin and burnish his dealmaking credentials for Taiwanese voters.

Gou, who recently announced a bid for Taiwan's presidency, told journalists Tuesday night in Taipei that he was to board a plane shortly for an overseas trip. He did not reveal other details, but a source familiar with the matter says Gou will visit Wisconsin as soon as early May. The news follows earlier media reports of Gou's plans to travel to Washington for a White House meeting.

Wisconsin promised Foxconn up to $4 billion in tax breaks and other incentives based on the level of investment and hiring at the plant. But Gov. Tony Evers, who unseated the incumbent in the state's election last year after calling the project "a lousy deal," said earlier this month that he intended to renegotiate the agreement, citing a dimmer outlook on reaching job creation targets.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, is a major supplier to Apple and a leading electronics contract manufacturer globally. The Taiwanese company first unveiled plans for the Wisconsin liquid crystal display plant when Gou held a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in July 2017. The two reunited the following year for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Trump, who has pledged to bring jobs back to U.S. soil, heaped praise on Gou, calling him "a friend of mine" and a "very special man."

The Taiwanese presidential election, set for January, is expected to be a referendum on who can manage the island's balancing act between China and the U.S.

If Gou can finesse a favorable deal for the Wisconsin plant, the executive can show voters his ability to forge close relations in the U.S. But doubts about the Foxconn boss could emerge if the project hits a rough patch.

Foxconn locates most of its plants in China, employing 800,000 to 1 million mainlanders. The headcount in Taiwan numbers no more than 8,000.

Gou seeks the nomination of main opposition party Kuomintang, which pursues rapprochement with Beijing. For him to mollify concerns that he would be too friendly with China, building relations in the U.S. will be crucial.

Some Taiwanese media outlets aired speculation that Gou looks to hold another face-to-face meeting with Trump. Gou told reporters Tuesday that he will not publicize his schedule prior to realizing results.

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