In Brazil, Foxconn’s plans unraveled quickly. The administration that had wooed the company was soon swept from power amid corruption allegations and an impeachment vote. Some of the tax breaks that had been promised were reduced or abandoned, as economic growth and consumer spending slumped.
Today, Foxconn employs only about 2,800 workers in Brazil.
Foxconn does the “big song and dance, bringing out the Chinese dragon dancers, ribbon cuttings, toasts and signature of the usual boilerplate agreements,” said Alberto Moel, an investor and adviser to early-stage tech companies who until recently was a technology analyst at the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein. “Then, when it gets down to brass tacks, something way smaller materializes.”
Foxconn said in a statement that it was committed to investing billions of dollars in building facilities outside China. But the company also said it had been forced to adapt to changing conditions in markets like Brazil, where the economy had stagnated.
“This and the changing needs of our customers that our proposed investments were designed to serve have resulted in scaled down operations in the country at this time,” the company said in its statement.
With regard to the Wisconsin project, Foxconn has said it plans to build one of the world’s largest manufacturing campuses in the southeastern part of the state. The company expects the buildings that will make up the campus to total 20 million square feet — about three times the size of the Pentagon — and to help transform the region into a major production center for flat-panel display screens.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, called the Foxconn deal a “game changer” that could help spur a manufacturing revival in the Midwest. At the White House in July, President Trump hailed the agreement as a great one for American manufacturing, American workers and “everybody who believes in the concept, in the label, Made in the U.S.A.” Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin officially approved the deal on Monday.
Foxconn has good reason to diversify its manufacturing operations. About 95 percent of the company’s 1.1 million employees work in China. Building a large work force elsewhere could reduce the company’s reliance on a single locale, lowering its risk if countries imposed tariffs or other trade barriers on Chinese exports.