A South Carolina plant that assembles televisions using Chinese parts plans to shut down and lay off nearly all its employees because of new tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration, the company announced this week.
Element Electronics — which describes itself as the only assembler of televisions in the U.S. — plans to lay off 126 of its 134 permanent full-time employees and close the Winnsboro, S.C. plant on Oct. 5. Notably, there are still at least two smaller companies that continue to assemble speciality televisions in the U.S.
“The layoff and closure is a result of the new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed on many goods imported from China, including the key television components used in our assembly operations in Winnsboro,” Carl Kennedy, Element’s vice president of human resources, said in a letter to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce on Monday.
Kennedy said he hopes the closure will be temporary and the company is advocating for its parts to be removed from the tariff list. “We remain hopeful that the closure of our South Carolina factory will be avoided,” Element said in a statement shared on social media Tuesday.
President Donald Trump often lamented on the campaign trail that the United States “doesn’t make television sets anymore.” At the time, it was already true that there were no U.S. factories making televisions from scratch — just a few that assembled televisions using imported parts. But with the closure of Element’s plant, the United States will no longer assemble mass-market television sets anymore, either.
Trump has defended his escalating trade war with China as necessary to reduce the U.S. trade deficit and bring back American jobs. But U.S. companies have complained about rising business costs, and trade experts have warned that the tariffs could hurt the U.S. economy. An analysis by the right-leaning Tax Foundation last month predicted Trump’s trade policy could lead to the loss of nearly 365,000 jobs in the long run.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican and a Trump supporter, told reporters on Wednesday that he is “doing every single thing we can” to find a solution that would not harm Element Electronics and its employees.
“We believe South Carolina has great economic prosperity in its future,” McMaster said. “And we don’t want to hurt it by any tariff or any tax or any regulation or anything else, so we are fighting with all we can, all that’s possible to be done, to see that these tariffs and proposed tariffs do not, in the end, hurt South Carolina.”
McMaster defended Trump, and said he has spoken with both the President and Vice President about implementing an exemption for Element Electronics.
“This is a difficult issue. It’s a difficult time. The President is right that there are countries out there that have been treating trade from the United States unevenly,” McMaster said. “He’s correct about that, and he is trying to fix it. What we want to do is be sure that the fix doesn’t hurt South Carolina.”
Meanwhile, James Smith, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee running against McMaster in November, said he spent the day in Winnsboro discussing the loss of jobs “due to job-killing tariffs.”
“These tariffs are not helping anyone in our state who are hurting from the loss of these jobs and many to come,” Smith said at a press conference on Wednesday, calling on McMaster to “tell this President when he’s doing what’s wrong for the people of our state.”