House Republicans intensified Tuesday their investigation into Ford over its deal with a Chinese company to open a new $3.5 billion facility in Michigan for electric vehicle batteries.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee requested a slew of information in a letter to Ford about the agreement with Chinese battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited, or CATL, adding to a previous probe opened this summer by House Republicans on two other committees.
Republicans cited national security concerns about the agreement, set to expire in 2038, in light of the Biden administration’s green energy transition and China’s dominance over critical minerals required in EV batteries.
“While Ford has labeled this project a ‘commitment to American manufacturing’ and asserts it will create 2,500 new American jobs, we are concerned that Ford’s partnership with a Chinese company could aid China’s efforts to expand its control over United States electric vehicle supply chains and jeopardize national security by furthering dependence on China,” stated the letter.
The correspondence was led by Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, and signed by 25 of her GOP colleagues on the panel.
“Should China gain control of domestic electric vehicle production,” the Republicans said, “the United States would be exposed to serious national security risks at a time of escalating geopolitical tensions.”
Ford did not respond to a request for comment.
The automaker has previously rejected critics’ claims about the partnership, calling them inaccurate.
“Broadly, a lot of what’s been said and implied about this project is wrong,” Ford spokesman T.R. Reid told news outlets in July. “Instead of buying these batteries from suppliers in Asia — like other automakers do today — we’re investing $3.5 billion to make them in a plant built and run by a wholly owned Ford subsidiary, creating 2,500 new American jobs in the process. This is good for customers, good for the country and good for our company.”
Part of Ford’s $50 billion global push toward EVs, the company said in February it would invest $3.5 billion to build a lithium iron phosphate battery plant in Marshall, Michigan, with a 2026 start date and 2,500 new jobs. It’s unclear how much of a role CATL would play or how many of its employees would be stationed in the U.S.
Ford says the plant, operated as a wholly owned subsidiary, would manufacture the battery cells but that CATL would provide “battery cell knowledge and services.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee asked that Ford provide by Sept. 18 a copy of the licensing agreement; if Ford considered a partnership with a non-Chinese company; how many CATL employees will work at the facility; and what steps Ford took to prevent or limit CATL’s ability to halt production, including at the direction of the Chinese government.
Republicans also cited concerns American taxpayers could end up buoying the Chinese company because the deal is likely to qualify for tax credits under President Biden’s tax-and-climate spending law known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
The GOP lawmakers said there appeared to be evidence of a “desire to exploit” federal tax incentives for domestic manufacturing and EVs.
The two other GOP-led House committees investigating the deal are the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and the Ways and Means Committee. They have raised similar issues, in addition to questions about CATL’s potential connections to forced labor practices.
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