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Graphite firms ask Biden to bring back tariffs

Feb 22, 2024
Illustration of a mining cart full of batteries.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Mining and battery materials companies asked President Biden to place a new tariff on imported products made with graphite, the largest component in EV batteries.

Why it matters: Tariffs would further ratchet up a trade conflict with China, the world's largest graphite producer. It restricted access to the metal late last year.

Driving the news: Five companies — three with U.S. battery component plants and two Canadian mining entities — asked Biden last night to reinstate Trump-era tariffs on natural and artificial graphite.

  • In a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative filed as a public comment, the companies cited a lack of supply for graphite outside of China and depressed prices that make potential domestic sources of the metal less economic.
  • Also cited: China's recent restrictions on graphite exports.

Between the lines: The letter is part of a D.C. attack plan by the five companies, who've formed an ad hoc group through lobbying firm Venn Strategies: the North American Graphite Alliance, or NAGA.

  • Biden has until late May to decide whether to reinstate the tariffs, which President Trump lifted on graphite products. Biden has extended the tariff exclusions up until now.
  • In the meantime, the alliance will be working the Hill to seek letters of support, said Erik Olson, a spokesman for NAGA and president of Venn Strategies.
  • Olson shared a study with Axios that the companies funded from Oxford Economics. It found that "absent concerted intervention, China is expected to continue to dominate" the market for battery-grade graphite.

Zoom in: NAGA's membership includes Anovion Technologies, Epsilon Advanced Materials, NOVONIX, Northern Graphite and Nouveau Monde Graphite.

The U.S. has only a few graphite mining projects in the works and is still building capacity for making graphite battery anodes.

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