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South Korean Electric Vehicle Battery Makers Reach $1.8B Deal To End Trade Dispute

A driver uses a fast-charging station for electric vehicles at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on April 2. As part of President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, $174 billion would go to supporting the production of electric vehicles in the U.S.
A driver uses a fast-charging station for electric vehicles at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on April 2. As part of President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, $174 billion would go to supporting the production of electric vehicles in the U.S.

Two of the world's largest electric vehicle battery manufacturers reached a settlement on Sunday that President Biden called "a win for American workers and the American auto industry."

The companies, SK Innovation and LG Chem, have been involved in a dispute after LG accused SK of misappropriating trade secrets. LG filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2019 and the commission ruled in favor of LG, putting a 10-year ban on SK imports.

SK agreed to pay $1.8 billion in cash and royalties to LG in the settlement, and both South Korea-based companies agreed not to sue each other for the next 10 years.

The settlement means SK can finish building an EV lithium-ion battery plant in Commerce, Ga., which will provide batteries to Ford and Volkswagen, two contracts it won before the ITC ruling.

The deal came just hours before a deadline in which Biden would have needed to decide to overrule the ITC or to let the ruling stand and potentially lose jobs and resources that would help him reach his electric vehicle goals for the U.S.

Within Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan is $174 billion set aside for increasing EV sales and production.

"We need a strong, diversified and resilient U.S.-based electric vehicle battery supply chain, so we can supply the growing global demand for these vehicles and components - creating good-paying jobs here at home, and laying the groundwork for the jobs of tomorrow," Biden said in a statement about the announcement.

SK's Georgia facilities are estimated to provide 2,600 jobs in the area, and both the state's Democratic senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp were urging Biden to take action to save the factories.

Biden said that Sunday's settlement "will bring some welcome relief to workers in Georgia and new opportunity for workers across the country."

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai helped facilitate the settlement and congratulated both companies on the deal, saying it "builds confidence in their reliability and responsibility as suppliers to the U.S. auto industry."

"After significant engagement with a range of stakeholders, we are in a stronger position to drive innovation and growth of clean energy technology envisioned in the American Jobs Plan while also respecting the rights of technology innovators at the heart of trade and manufacturing policy," Tai said in a statement.

The CEOs of the two companies released a joint statement saying they "will work to help the development of EV battery industry in South Korea and the U.S. through healthy competition and friendly cooperation."

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