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Moolenaar seeks bans on Chinese battery imports, citing economic, humanitarian concerns

The U.S. Capitol Building. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Michigan U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar is calling for bans on imports from several Chinese battery companies, including Gotion Inc. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., commonly known as CATL.

The Caledonia Republican co-sponsored a bill Thursday that stops the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from procuring battery technology from six Chinese companies. Earlier in the week, Moolenaar and several colleagues urged the department to add Gotion and CATL to its banned entity list under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which seeks to stop the U.S. entities from funding or facilitating forced labor of the ethnic minority in China.

The lawmakers suggested that both companies’ supply chains are reliant on Chinese state-owned enterprises and paramilitary organizations — some of which have already been sanctioned by the U.S. — that directly contribute to Uyghur genocide and forced labor.

The potential bans add to a growing list of calls in Washington for the United States to quickly ditch its reliance on China for battery technologies crucial for electric vehicles and high-tech products. Those calls reflect serious concerns by Republican and Democratic lawmakers over the national security risks, precarious economics and human rights questions associated with sourcing batteries and battery components from the nation’s top geopolitical rival. But as election year rhetoric ramps up, they also reflect both parties seizing on an issue that resonates with voters.

“American tax dollars should never be used to further the Chinese Communist Party’s hopes to dominate key technologies at our expense,” Moolenaar said in a statement.

He added: “I am proud to co-sponsor the Decoupling from Foreign Adversarial Battery Dependence Act which would stop the Department of Homeland Security from using American taxpayer dollars to purchase Gotion, CATL, or other Chinese batteries. Our military has already banned these batteries and DHS should do the same,” referencing the bill introduced Thursday. 

The companies identified in the bill are CATL, Gotion, BYD Co. Ltd., Envision Energy Ltd., EVE Energy Co. Ltd. and Hithium Energy Storage Technology Company Ltd.

CATL and BYD, the world’s leading seller of electric vehicles, dominate the EV battery business. Together, according to an analysis by VisualCapitalist, they represent 50% of the global market.

Moolenaar has long been a vocal critic of U.S. reliance on China for battery technology crucial for electric vehicles and a staunch opponent of planned CATL and Gotion projects in Michigan. His recent appointment as chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party has allowed him to amplify his concerns about the national security risks of doing business with Chinese companies as well as human rights abuses in Chinese manufacturing.

He and four Republican colleagues in the U.S. House and Senate sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday homing in on concerns about human rights abuses in Gotion and CATL’s supply chains.

They allege that CATL sources key components from organizations directly responsible for human rights abuses against Uyghurs. That includes lithium-ion anode materials from a company controlled by a Chinese paramilitary organization, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. The organization has previously been sanctioned by the U.S. government for its human rights abuses against Uyghurs.

It also includes electrolytic nickel from a subsidiary of Xinjiang Nonferrous, which the letter describes as a state-owned enterprise that uses forced labor, including forced housing of Han officials — part of the country’s ethnic majority — with Uyghurs.

A separate letter on Gotion alleges similar concerning activities.

It is unclear how the potential bans would impact the Gotion battery plant project in the Big Rapids area, which has received local pushback since it was announced in 2022. Ford Motor Co. is licensing technology from CATL that it will use to produce batteries at a plant in Marshall. That project has also received local pushback with a group still fighting it in court.

“Ford plans to license technology from CATL. The U.S. plant where we intend to apply this technology to produce EV batteries is being built and will be owned and run by Ford.  Whatever their relationships with us, all suppliers to Ford must comply with our supplier code of conduct,” Ford spokesperson T.R. Reid said in a statement.

Gotion pushed back on Moolenaar’s proposal in a statement.

“Gotion, a global leader in energy storage technology and manufacture, is committed to maintaining an effective and responsible supply chain system. We believe any suggestion or allegation that Gotion has used forced labor, or has any connection to forced labor, is absolutely false,” the company said. “We are proud of the significant investments which will create local manufacturing capacity in the U.S. to serve our U.S.-based customers. We will continue to engage with stakeholders at all levels of government as we work to bring our U.S. manufacturing on-line.”


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