Donald Trump hosted a discussion on trade at the White House yesterday and decided to break some news about a development that seemed pretty important.
“I do want to tell you, we just got this notice: General Motors in Korea announces the first step in necessary restructuring. They’re going to – GM Korea company announced today that it will cease production and close its Gunsan plant in May of 2018, and they’re going to move back to Detroit.
“You don’t hear these things, except for the fact that Trump became president. Believe me, you wouldn’t be hearing that. So they’re moving back from Korea to Detroit…. General Motors is coming back into Detroit. That is a really significant statement.”
Well, maybe, though there’s reason for some skepticism about whether the “really significant statement” is true.
We know for certain that part of Trump’s story is accurate: General Motors is closing its Gunsan plant in South Korea, ending the run of a facility that’s been struggling for a while.
It’s that other part that stands out, though. The American president may like the idea of an auto manufacturer moving production from Asia-Pacific to Michigan, but is that what GM actually “announced” yesterday?
Not exactly. The company’s statement made no mention of Detroit or U.S. production. Reuters reported:
GM did not say that it plans to move production of vehicles to the United States from South Korea as part of its restructuring of operations there.
“The announcement is related to our need to restructure our business in South Korea. Depending on the outcome of those restructuring efforts there could be broad global implications but as we said yesterday we need the full engagement of all stakeholders with a sense of urgency,” the automaker said in a statement after Trump’s comments.
The White House did not immediately provide clarification on whether Trump had been told by GM that vehicle production would be moved from South Korea to Detroit.
So, it’s possible that the president is privy to information that hasn’t yet been released to the public, but it’s also possible that Trump saw the GM news, started adding details that he wanted to believe were true, and ended up making a major announcement about an imaginary development.
It’s one of the downsides of having a president whose public remarks are so frequently at odds with reality: we don’t know what to believe; we can’t consider him a reliable source of information; and we’re routinely confronted with independent information that points in a different direction, as was the case yesterday.
In the not-too-distant past, a sitting American president would feel quite a bit of embarrassment over getting something like this wrong, but in the Trump era, it’s generally just known as “Tuesday.”
Update: A GM spokesperson confirmed today that the company has no current plans to move any of the jobs or production from it Korea plant to Detroit.