Georgia Governor Warns of Lost Jobs If SK Ban Is Upheld

  • By Ahn Joon-ho, Kim Kang-han

    March 15, 2021 12:39

    The governor of the U.S. state of Georgia has urged President Joe Biden to veto a ruling by the International Trade Commission banning SK Innovation from selling electric vehicle batteries over a copyright row.

    "The livelihood of thousands of Georgians is now in your hands," Governor Brian Kemp said in a letter to Biden.

    Last month, the ITC recommended banning SK from importing, making or selling EV batteries and parts in the U.S. for the next 10 years because it stole trade secrets from rival LG Energy Solution.

    SK has been building an EV battery plant in Georgia slated to begin production in 2022, and Biden has until April 11 to veto the ITC ruling that threatens to scupper the plan.

    Kemp pointed out that the plant in Commerce, Georgia would employ 2,600 people, later to rise to 6,000, and the company's US$2.6 billion investment is the biggest by a foreign investor in the state.

    SK Innovation's new plant for electric vehicle batteries is under construction in Commerce, Georgia.

    LG has already offered to take up the slack in case Biden upholds the ruling. LG is "prepared to do whatever we can to help the people and workers of Georgia," LGES CEO Kim Jong-hyun told Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia earlier this month. Kim added that LG could even partner with another company that takes over the plant from SK.

    "Multiple investors and manufacturers… will be interested in the Commerce plant due to increased demand for electric vehicle batteries," Kim said.

    An LG staffer said, "The letter was intended to clarify the fact that the situation right now was caused by SK's theft of technology, while seeking to allay concerns over jobs in Georgia."

    But an SK spokesman told AP that "it is simply impossible for someone to acquire an EV battery manufacturing facility and run it to produce batteries acceptable to a major auto company." "LG's monopolization of the U.S. battery supply chain will only set the U.S. further back in its effort to catch up with China," the spokesman added.

    Industry watchers believe LG and SK will both keep lobbying politicians until Biden will make a decision.

    LG already has one EV battery plant in Michigan and is building another in Ohio, and recently announced plans for two more in the U.S. If the ITC decision is upheld, it would have a free run of the American market.

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