The ongoing US-China trade war under the Trump administration is threatening the livelihood of the last remaining television manufacturing factory in America, reports Reuters. Element Electronics, a South Carolina-based factory that assembles TVs for Walmart, is at risk of closure after a new proposal would impose a 25 percent import tax for all Chinese goods.
Element opened its plant in 2012, supplying the majority of its TVs for Walmart’s Made in America initiative. The factory assembles its TVs using Chinese-made components by testing, packaging, and inserting memory boards onto the device. Though most of the TV itself made in China, Element is careful to specify on the packaging that its products are “Assembled in the USA.” (This practice has drawn criticisms from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a nonprofit group that lobbies for domestic goods.)
Element was previously poised to shut down last summer after President Trump’s initial tariff proposal. At the time, the factory, which employed 250 people, told its employees they were all being laid off until the Trump administration exempted television parts from the tax-eligible list.
According to Reuters, the US had 150 TV manufacturers in the 1950s. Today, most TVs in the US are assembled and produced in Asia, while 40 percent of television sets that are imported to the country come from Mexico. A recent threat by the Trump administration to impose taxes on Mexican goods in an effort to tighten border control may have helped Element Electronics gain a price advantage, but the tariff rules never materialized. Element TVs currently retail for around $200 for a new LED HDTV with built-in streaming apps like Netflix and Pandora.
The US is expected to continue discussions with China at this weekend’s G20 summit, so while the two parties talk over how exactly the rules will go into effect, Element says the company will be bringing in more parts than usual in preparation for the holiday season as “buffer against the unknown.”