US lawmakers probe Ford Michigan deal with Chinese battery maker

Blue Oval City is designed to be the largest, most advanced and most efficient auto production campus in Ford’s history. Credit: Ford

Republican lawmakers are probing Ford Motor Co.’s partnership with a Chinese battery company for its new $3.5 billion plant in Michigan, scrutinizing issues around American jobs, technology sharing and links to forced labor.

Representatives Mike Gallagher and Jason Smith, chairmen of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and the Ways and Means Committee, respectively, sent a letter to Ford requesting information about the company’s licensing agreement with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., the world’s biggest producer of batteries for electric vehicles.

The move highlights concern on Capitol Hill about the role Chinese companies may play in US efforts to manufacture technologies from semiconductors to electric vehicles at home after decades of production abroad.

That industrial push, which has become a key part of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, has promised to deliver thousands of jobs and bolster supply chains that Washington sees potentially at risk from Beijing.

The probe follows a similar investigation unveiled by the China select committee earlier this week into venture capital firms’ Chinese tech investments, and comes several weeks after four US lawmakers traveled to Detroit to press the CEOs of Ford and General Motors Co. to cut their supply chains’ reliance on China.

The letter to Ford asks the company to detail the number of Chinese nationals who will be employed at its plant in Michigan, including their visa status and how long they will stay in the US. It also raised questions about CATL’s connection to Xinjiang Zhicun Lithium, a company it sold in February in the Chinese western province of Xinjiang, where the US has accused China of using forced labor.

Lawmakers also requested details about the technology, battery components and raw materials that will come from China, raising concerns that Chinese firms will be able to take advantage of US tax breaks and benefits aimed at supporting America’s EV industry and supply chains.

T.R. Reid, a Ford spokesman, said the company is reviewing the letter and will respond soon.

“Broadly, a lot of what’s been said and implied about this project is wrong,” Reid said. The Michigan plant with CATL will be “built and run by a wholly owned Ford subsidiary, creating 2,500 new American jobs in the process.”

The committee chairmen gave Ford a deadline to respond by Aug. 10.

(By Mackenzie Hawkins, with assistance from Keith Naughton)


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