News: Battling for batteries: Two Korean companies court Washington.
WASHINGTON / DETROIT (Reuters) – When U.S. President Joe Biden flies to Georgia on Friday, he’ll end up in the middle of an increasingly politicized battle between two South Korean electric vehicle battery makers and state and federal politicians trying to keep their feud from costing American jobs.
Firms LG Chem and rival SK Innovation Co seek to leverage past and promised U.S. investments and ties to Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee politicians to win the final in a longstanding intellectual property lawsuit and gain access to the growing U.S. Electric Vehicle Market.
The Biden administration can select a winner through the US Sales Agent’s office until the end of April. Both declined to comment.
The global auto industry is racing to develop electric vehicles. Batteries from LG, SK and other suppliers are critical to achieving the goal of building zero-emission vehicles.
Georgia is the center of action. Unless the White House intervenes, SK would suspend construction of a $ 2.6 billion factory in a state whose two newly elected Democratic senators are the linchpin of Bidens, according to a Feb. 10 ruling by the International Trade Commission lean Democratic Congress majority.
Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock told Reuters that he had spoken to the Biden administration and hoped an agreement could be reached. “I am working to ensure that the Georgians benefit from the promised jobs.”
LG wrote to Warnock, arguing that SK is holding “the people of Georgia hostage in a final lobbying effort to avoid settlement”. LG said if SK gives up the facility, LG will “do our best to fill any gaps.”
The concern in Georgia is non-partisan. On Friday, Republican Governor Brian Kemp Biden called for the decision to be overturned, stating that SK’s plant will employ nearly 2,600 people for the largest foreign investment in Georgian history. “Put simply, the livelihoods of thousands of Georgians are now in your hands.”
LG’s political allies warn that reversing the ITC could hurt workers in Michigan and Ohio, also in key political battlefield states.
LG is about to complete a cell manufacturing facility in Ohio with General Motors. According to sources, they are in talks to build a second facility in Tennessee.
“LG Chem’s stolen intellectual property should not be used directly against workers in Ohio at the new factory or against companies in Ohio and Michigan in the factory’s supply chain,” Ohio governor Mike DeWine wrote in a letter Biden of March 8th.
In Tennessee, home of the US assembly plant of SK customer Volkswagen, the chief of state economic development, Bob Rolfe, said that politics and employment are the focus.
“You can certainly weigh the political side, and then you also have to weigh the economic impact,” said Rolfe, who refused to support either battery maker.
LG plans to invest more than $ 4.5 billion in US battery production and build at least two plants over the next four years, possibly in Georgia as well. LG insists it can meet the auto industry’s battery needs when SK leaves its Georgia facility.
SK said LG’s spending plans are intended to affect Biden, adding that it would be impossible for LG to unwind VW and Ford Motor Co’s contracts.
“The Georgians know the difference between our real commitment to the state and LG’s paper pledges,” said an SK spokeswoman.
SK warned Chinese manufacturers against replacing lost battery capacity and met some lawmakers who are sensitive to ceding the land to a large trading competitor.
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Adaptation by Nick Zieminski
Original Source © Reuters