Two of the world’s largest electric-vehicle battery makers have hired top Washington insiders to hold near-daily meetings with the Biden administration in a battle that could affect the electrification plans of Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG. SK Innovation Co., Ford’s battery supplier for its upcoming electric F-150 pickup truck, faces a 10-year U.S. import ban on its Korean-made batteries and components after April 11. SK Innovation has engaged such well-connected advocates as former EPA chief Carol Browner and one-time Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to convince the administration to intervene.
LG Energy Solution Co., which won the order against its rival from the U.S. International Trade Commission for what the agency said was an “extraordinary” effort to destroy evidence in a trade secrets battle, has also brought in hired guns to influence the Biden team. Ernest Moniz, an Obama energy secretary, is advising Seoul-based LG Energy on its strategic plans, while other insiders are lobbying the administration.
“The development of the battery supply chain is going to depend on what happens with this case,” Moniz said in an interview.
Biden has until April 11 to intervene. Presidential vetoes, known formally as “disapprovals,” of ITC import bans are rare. The last one was in 2013, when the Obama administration overturned a U.S. import ban on some older models of Apple Inc.’s iPhones and iPads in a blow to Samsung Electronics Co.
The issue is a complicated one for Biden. The president has made the promotion of EVs a cornerstone of his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan to bolster the economy and combat climate change. Both South Korean battery makers are building plants in the U.S. that would employ thousands of American workers. At the same time, Biden can’t be seen as wavering on intellectual property protection considering the long-standing U.S. dispute with China over the issue.