Apr 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

VW, Ford EV battery supplier reaches deal to avoid import ban

A delegate walks past the SK Innovation Co. logo at the 22nd World Energy Congress (WEC) in Daegu, South Korea

A person walks past the SK Innovation Co. logo in Daegu, South Korea. Photo: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two Korean electric vehicle battery makers have reached a last-minute settlement, saving President Biden from a Sunday deadline to decide whether to intervene in the global trade secret dispute.

Why it matters: The deal between SK Innovation and its rival, LG Chem, "averts a 10-year import ban on SK Innovation Co.'s products and protects thousands of jobs in the politically important state of Georgia," according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news.

  • SK Innovation is the battery supplier for certain Ford and Volkswagen U.S.-built EVs.

Catch up fast: LG Chem had accused SK Innovation of stealing its EV battery technology and hiding the evidence, per Axios' Joann Muller.

  • The U.S. International Trade Commission in February sided with LG Chem, restricting SK from importing critical components for lithium-ion batteries for 10 years (with some temporary exceptions).
  • Prior to the deal, SK said it may have to stop construction of a $2.6 billion battery plant in Georgia, putting at risk the 2,600 clean energy jobs that came with it.
  • The import ban was set to take effect Sunday, unless President Biden intervened and overturned the ITC decision.
  • South Korean officials and the Biden administration urged the companies to come to an agreement instead, according to Bloomberg.

Of note: "The settlement will cover not only a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission but also litigation in federal court," the Washington Post reported.

The big picture: Speeding up domestic EV and and supply chain manufacturing is part of Biden's climate and jobs push, and the trade dispute threatened to create new headwinds.

What he's saying: Biden in a statement Sunday called the settlement "a win for American workers and the American auto industry."

  • "We need a strong, diversified and resilient U.S.-based electric vehicle battery supply chain, so we can supply the growing global demand for these vehicles and components - creating good-paying jobs here at home, and laying the groundwork for the jobs of tomorrow."

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