Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn said Thursday it was reassessing plans to build a cutting-edge factory in Wisconsin, an investment hailed by President Donald Trump as a flagship example of his push to revive America’s manufacturing sector.
Foxconn, which makes devices and components for a host of major tech firms including Apple, had planned to build a factory producing LCD flatscreen televisions and create around 13,000 jobs.
The investment was backed by $4 billion in controversial tax breaks and embraced by Trump, who appeared alongside Foxconn CEO Terry Gou at a groundbreaking ceremony last summer wielding golden shovels.
But the global economic climate – roiled by Trump’s trade war with China where Foxconn has most of its assembly lines – has led officials at the Taiwanese company to look again at the original plans. 
‘The global market environment that existed when the project was first announced has changed. As our plans are driven by those of our customers, this has necessitated the adjustment of plans for all projects, including Wisconsin,’ Foxconn said in a statement on Thursday.
That came after media reports quoted Louis Woo, an assistant to Gou, suggesting the company might scrap the flatscreen factory in favour of hiring more high-skilled engineers for research and development – a move that would lead to far fewer blue-collar jobs.
In its statement, Foxconn said it remained committed to building its science park in Wisconsin and ‘the creation of 13,000 jobs’.
It added that ‘in addition to our consideration of plans to produce traditional products such as television sets’ the company was also examining ways for Wisconsin’s ‘knowledge workers’ to promote research and development and produce ‘high-tech applications and solutions’.
Woo also told Bloomberg there was ‘no scrapping of our plans’.
But he added: ‘Given global economic conditions and the trade tensions between China and the US… it’s impossible that we can always stay committed to our original plan without any change.’
Foxconn, officially known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, is one of many key tech companies who find themselves buffeted by the trade war. 
The world’s largest contract-electronics manufacturer assembles most of its products on the Chinese mainland but many of its high-tech gadgets are bought by consumers in the United States, leaving it acutely vulnerable to Trump’s tariffs.
Its Wisconsin investment has not been without controversy. 
The state’s Republican former Governor Scott Walker – a vocal supporter of the plant – was defeated late last year by a Democrat who said that the huge tax breaks offered to Foxconn risked negating the jobs it created in the state.
It has also struggled so far to meet the hiring targets that were part of the deal.