U.S. Trade Authorities Deal Blow To Biden’s Electric Vehicle Plans

The U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday banned one of the world’s biggest electric vehicle battery manufacturers from selling its cells in the United States, dealing a major blow to the Biden administration’s ambitious plan to electrify the nation’s auto fleet. 

The decision bars South Korean giant SK Innovation from importing its batteries or the components to make them for 10 years, ruling that the company stole trade secrets from its cross-town rival, LG Energy Solution. 

The ruling gave the automakers Ford and Volkswagen, which had designed key electric models around the SK Innovation battery, a grace period to switch suppliers. But the decision casts doubt over the future of SK Innovation’s $2.6 billion pair of battery facilities in Jackson County, Georgia, which already started hiring some of the nearly 3,000 workers the Seoul-based firm expected to employ by 2024. 

President Joe Biden, who pledged to make electric vehicles a cornerstone of his plan to rapidly scale down U.S. climate pollution, could veto the ITC decision within the next 60 days. But it’s a rarely used presidential power. In the past few decades, Barack Obama was the only president to nullify an ITC decision, blocking a 2013 ruling that would have eliminated some Apple iPhone and iPad products from the market. Ronald Reagan deployed the presidential veto at least four times in the 1980s, coincidentally once for a battery company. 

The grace period the ITC granted to Ford and Volkswagen “makes it harder for Biden to veto the ITC decision,” James Frith, the head battery analyst at the energy research firm BloombergNEF, said on Twitter. 

“This is potentially the worst outcome for SK,” he said. 

Ram Chandrasekaran, an analyst at the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told HuffPost on Tuesday that “the outcome is likely to hurt the already struggling supply of EV battery packs in the U.S.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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