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Trump hails iPhone maker Foxconn for $10 billion Wisconsin plant

And the president praises Apple for investing $350 billion in the US -- though it's unlikely to be spent on new factories, as Trump hopes.

President Trump Attends Groundbreaking Of Foxconn Factory In Wisconsin
President Donald Trump (center) speaks as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (left) and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou look on at the groundbreaking for the Foxconn Technology Group computer screen plant in Mt Pleasant, Wisconsin. 
Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Thursday lauded Foxconn's plans to build a factory in the Midwest and said it's just the beginning for foreign investment in the US.

"Today's groundbreaking is only one part of the exciting story playing out across our nation," he said.

Trump joined Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other officials in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, to break ground on the new $10 billion electronics manufacturing plant. He hailed Gou as "one of the great businessmen in the world" and said that Foxconn is working with 26 local Wisconsin companies to build its main facility. 

Foxconn is the Chinese company that assembles most of Apple's iPhones. The 20-million-square-foot factory will produce LCD displays and employ as many as 13,000 people, officials said in the initial announcement by the White House nearly a year ago. 

Now playing: Watch this: Foxconn breaks ground on first US factory

"As Foxconn has discovered, there is no better place to build, hire and grow than right here in the United States," Trump said Thursday. "America is open for business, more than it has ever been open for business."

The ceremony comes at a touchy time for the US and China thanks to tariffs and a brewing trade war. While Foxconn has committed to investing here, a Wisconsin-based company, motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson, has drawn Trump's ire for its intention to move some of its manufacturing to Asia. At the same time, Trump has helped Chinese telecommunications maker ZTE get out of a devastating ban levied upon it by the US Commerce Department

"Harley-Davidson, please build those beautiful motorcycles in the USA, please," Trump said Thursday. "OK. Don't get cute with us. Don't get cute."

The new Foxconn factory is not without its controversy. To secure Foxconn's commitment, Wisconsin added nearly $1 billion on top of an existing plan for $3 billion in financial incentives, according to The Wall Street Journal

A spokesman for Foxconn couldn't immediately be reached for comment. 

US investment

Foxconn has suggested for some time that it would expand in the US. In 2012, a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg it was "looking at doing more manufacturing in the US because, in general, customers want more to be done there."

Such plans don't always pan out, however. In 2013, Foxconn said it would invest $30 million in a Pennsylvania factory and create 500 jobs. But as noted by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, the facility was never built.

Trump spent the bulk of his time Thursday talking about tariffs on products like steel and aluminum, the US tax cuts and the demise of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, three major initiatives undertaken by Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. 

"I have a lot of respect for China. It's great," Trump said. "But we lost $500 billion over the last number of years, $500 billion a year. We helped rebuild China. Someday they'll say thank you, but we don't want to do that anymore. We want a fair and balanced situation."

Trump on Thursday also praised Apple for its plans to invest more in the US.

"Apple is spending $350 billion," Trump said. "I would have been happy with $350 million. But they're spending $350 billion on plants, building an incredible new campus." 

Despite Trump's remarks, Apple won't be building a big new plant in the US. It does the majority of its research and development in the US, but the bulk of its devices have been assembled overseas. It does plan to build a new campus, but it hasn't yet specified the size or location. 

Apple -- which held most of its cash overseas, nearly $300 billion -- in January said it would pay $38 billion in taxes to bring the money back to the US as part of a repatriation program. The company said it plans to invest $30 billion in the US over the next five years by building a new campus and creating 20,000 new jobs. Factoring in current spending, product sales tax and taxes on employees' wages, Apple said it expects to contribute $350 billion to the US economy over that period.

But that won't be spent on new factories. 

Apple declined to comment. 

CNET's Edward Moyer contributed to this story.

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