White House Downplays Trump Meeting With
May 3, 2019
A White House meeting between the current
U.S. president and a prominent businessman who is seeking to become
president of Taiwan is causing concern.
The White House on Thursday sought to downplay any diplomatic or
political sensitivities, saying President Donald Trump and Foxconn
founder Terry Gou did not discuss support for the billionaire's
presidential campaign in Taiwan.
"He is just a great friend" of Trump, White House press secretary Sarah
Sanders said in a statement.
The Taiwanese businessman, however, in a Facebook posting after
Wednesday's meeting and in a discussion with reporters, said he told the
president of his candidacy and Trump responded that being president "was
a tough job."
He also displayed a pen and autographed coin he said that Trump gave
"If I am elected president of the Republic of China, I will be a
peacemaker and won't become a troublemaker," Gou told reporters. "I will
strengthen Taiwan and the U.S. economically." He also boasted that of
all the presidential contenders, he is the only one to have secured an
Oval Office meeting.
Wednesday's discussion is the first known circumstance of a sitting
American president meeting with a Taiwanese presidential candidate since
Washington broke diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 as part of its
recognition of the communist government in Beijing.
Gou is to seek the nomination of the opposition Kuomintang party in
Taiwan's 2020 presidential election. The party is regarded as having a
friendlier stance toward Beijing than the ruling Democrat Progressive
Party of President Tsai Ing-wen.
Trump also was seen as breaking protocol as president-elect when he had
a phone conversation with Tsai, something that prompted protest from the
Chinese government, which regards Taiwan as a renegade island province.
The Trump-Gou meeting occurred at a particularly sensitive time. The
United States is in the final stages of negotiating a sweeping trade
deal with China amid growing strategic tension between the two Pacific
Meanwhile, Gou — who has appeared in public previously alongside Trump
to tout economic investment — is receiving criticism in the U.S. state
of Wisconsin because what was envisioned as a $10 billion liquid crystal
display factory project has fallen behind schedule.
"Mr. Gou is spending a lot of money in Wisconsin and soon will announce
even more investment there," the White House press secretary said in her
Foxconn, which is a major supplier for Apple Inc. products, says Gou and
Trump discussed the "positive progress of the Wisconn Valley Science and
Technology Park project and other matters."
Trump, a strong supporter of the project in the political swing state,
has proclaimed it the "eighth wonder of the world" for its scope and its
projected economic impact, including as many as 13,000 jobs.
There is concern about whether it will become a reality as envisioned
because Foxconn failed to meet its job targets in 2018 to qualify for
state tax credits and it has reduced the size of the factory it
originally announced it would construct.
speaking to reporters on Wednesday, disputed that anything significant
"It is not right to say our investment in Wisconsin has changed," he
said. "We suspended the work around October and November last year
because the weather there was snowy and icy cold. We will continue our
work in May when the weather gets warmer."
Gou on Thursday flew to Wisconsin on his private jet and met with Gov.
Tony Evers at an airport terminal to further try to allay concerns about
Evers earlier told reporters he would emphasize to Gou that there must
be adequate protections for taxpayers and environmental standards.