Columbia, SC (WLTX) Republican Governor Henry McMaster has spent a week responding to questions about President Donald Trump's tariffs and their impact here in South Carolina after Element, a Fairfield County TV manufacturing factory, announced the potential loss of 126 employees.
In a letter sent this week, the company said new tariffs implemented on TV parts from China would make it impossible to do business for the time being.
“The layoff and closure is a result of the new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed on many goods imported from China, including the key television components used in our assembly operations in Winnsboro,” Carl Kennedy, Vice President of Human Resources said in the letter, dated August 6, 2018.
This week, while speaking to reporters at the Statehouse, Governor McMaster said what he and state agencies are doing to try and help Element and other companies hit by the tariffs.
“We are doing every single thing that can be done to see that the people and businesses in South Carolina are not hurt by whatever tariffs may finally be imposed,” McCaster said.
He told those gathered, in his view, the President was right to address trade imbalances.
"The President is right that there are countries out there that have been treating the trade from the United States unevenly, they've been taking advantage, they've been putting up governmental barriers and he's correct about that," the Governor said.
“But, what we want to do is make sure the fix does not hurt South Carolina,” McCaster added.
The tariffs can limit trade and increase costs between South Carolina businesses and international partners.
The Governor explained they've asked for exemptions in the past with other businesses, but it's fallen on deaf ears.
“We've asked for changes, we've suggested changes, we've suggested exemptions, we've asked for exemptions. I've testified in favor of exemptions, so have some of our congressmen, and we've been all over this,” McCaster told the gathering of reporters.
He said in the past, he’s personally spoken to the President and Vice President Mike Pence about the impact of tariffs on the state, along with efforts through written and spoken testimony in front of Washington committees to avoid tariffs on businesses in the Palmetto State.
“We've asked for exemptions for Samsung, we asked for exemptions on solar cells and we did not get what we asked for in those instances,” the Governor explained.
In the case of Samsung, McMaster said the President suggested the company speed-up production to avoid the tariffs that would be employed later in the year.
Samsung partnered with the University of South Carolina and Clemson University to improve production speeds and finish work on higher-priced washing machines, according to the Governor.
For Element, McMaster said the state's overall response is similar.
“The Department of Commerce has been working on this, we've got people working in Washington on this, I'm sure every request that can be made is being made,” he said.
“We're doing everything that there is, a full court press, to see that the industry and people in South Carolina are not hurt,” McMaster added.
In Element’s letter, it said the company could lay off 126 employees between October 5th and the end of the year.
In earlier interviews this week, Governor McMaster said, “I’m hoping when all the work is done and all the facts are known that the businesses and industries in South Carolina will not be hurt, but instead will prosper.”