Washington Watch

Congressional panels investigate Ford’s ties to Chinese company

Committe chairs claim ‘significant portion’ of BlueOval Battery Park jobs will be filled by workers brought from China

The leaders of two U.S. House committees sent a letter last week to Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley, announcing an investigation into the Dearborn automaker’s plans to work with a Chinese company as it develops a facility near Marshall, Michigan, for electric vehicle batteries. Their concerns include the possible importation of foreign labor to work at the plant and the Chinese company’s ownership of companies “allegedly connected to forced labor practices.”

The five-page letter, dated July 20, was penned by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin; and Jason Smith, R-Missouri. Gallagher chairs the House Select Committee on China, while Smith chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. The Marshall-area project involves Ford and Contemporary Amperex Technology, Co. Limited, or CATL.

“[I]nformation regarding the proposed partnership agreement between Ford and CATL suggests that a significant portion of these well-paying jobs will be given to citizens of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — not Americans,” Gallagher and Smith wrote.

The representatives wrote that several hundred of the 2,500 jobs promised will be given to CATL employees from China, “who will be in charge of setting up and maintaining the equipment.” The Chinese workers will be on-site through at least 2038, Gallagher and Smith wrote.

They attribute the use of foreign workers to “a deliberate choice by Ford.”

The lawmakers worry that Ford will take a technological back seat to the Chinese company.

“Rather than developing American technology, we are concerned that the deal could simply facilitate the partial onshoring of PRC-controlled battery technology, raw materials, and employees while collecting tax credits and flowing funds back to CATL through the licensing agreement,” Gallagher and Smith wrote.

They added: “If Ford is using a licensing agreement to maximize benefits to itself or CATL at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer, this demonstrates a disregard for corporate responsibility as an American company.”

The lawmakers are also concerned with mineral sourcing, where China has an advantage. They argue that Ford should pursue “the development of homegrown process technologies and local sourcing strategies.”

The letter sets an Aug. 10 deadline for Ford to respond to six questions, including how many Chinese workers will be brought to Marshall. The lawmakers also ask Ford for copies of relevant documents.

Thus far, taxpayers are committed to spend more than $1.5 billion toward the $3.5 billion project.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.