President Donald Trump campaigned on a slogan to “Make America Great Again.”
Following his first international trip since being inaugurated in January, Trump has placed Germany squarely in his sights. Earlier this week, President Trump criticized Germany on trade and defense spending.
“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” the president wrote in a tweet.
That social media post has prompted a strong response in South Carolina.
“South Carolina is proof that we are better when we have strong partnerships with German companies,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Instead of criticizing our German partners, the president should come back to South Carolina where he can see first-hand what an incredible impact companies such as BMW, Daimler, the Schaeffler Group and others can have on a state and its people.”
From the Lowcountry to the Upstate, the impact of relations with Germany can be felt. In Spartanburg County, BMW Manufacturing Co. has 40 suppliers dotting the map in South Carolina. In the Lowcountry, Mercedes-Benz Vans’ establishment of an assembly and production facility — a $500 million project with the potential to provide nearly 1,300 jobs to the Charleston area — will cover 229 acres and also need local and regional suppliers.
Allen Smith, president of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said the recent rhetoric was not going to deter the mission of fostering new and existing partnerships with international companies.
“We don’t see it slowing down at all,” Smith told GSA Business Report. “If anything, we would encourage those in power to make statements that only help us keep the jobs we have and even recruit future jobs.”
The tweet from President Trump has placed the Palmetto State in the national media spotlight with the CBS Evening News featuring the Upstate during its newscast on Wednesday. Smith said he spent most of Wednesday on the phone with various national and international media outlets talking about the relations the Upstate and South Carolina have with Germany.
“Up to this point, we have not seen any fallout from the comments,” Smith said. “In fact, it has given us a platform to talk about all the things we have done. We’ve had that platform now nationally and internationally.”