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Foxconn to expand in the U.S.

(MoneyWatch) Apple's (AAPL) plans to build some Macs in the U.S. suggests a company eager to rehabilitate its reputation after years of bad press over its outsourced manufacturing operations in China.

But would run such an assembly line? It seems that Apple might turn to the the same controversial contract manufacturer, Foxconn, which builds its products in China and which has long been accused of mistreating workers at its plants on the mainland.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Foxconn will expand its U.S. operations:

"We are looking at doing more manufacturing in the U.S. because, in general, customers want more to be done there," Louis Woo, a Foxconn spokesman, said in a phone interview. He declined to comment on individual clients or specific plans.

A number of publications have taken such statements to mean that Foxconn would "enter" the U.S. But according to the company's website, Foxconn would expand existing operations in North and Latin America, which include a presence in Florida, as well as locations in Mexico and Brazil. The company apparently set up a facility in South Florida in 2008, taking advantage of staff laid off by Motorola in the same area.

According to a Bloomberg interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, the consumer electronics company will spend more than $100 million next year to build Mac computers in the U.S. By expanding into the U.S., Foxconn would not only be able to satisfy Apple's demands, but those of other electronics company.

However, conditions in the U.S. are far different from those in China. Labor expenses here are much higher and there is not a local network of component vendors at close hand. Chances are that the company would likely replace human workers with automated production systems, as it is doing in its Chinese factories.