Alleging links to forced labor, Republicans call for ban on companies tied to Ford, Volkswagen EVs

A group of Republicans this week called on the Biden administration to ban imports from two Chinese companies that have ties to Ford and Volkswagen respectively, alleging that the battery companies also have ties to forced labor in China.

In a pair of letters to the Department of Homeland Security this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) alongside Reps. John Moolenaar (Mich.), Mark Green (Tenn.), Darin LaHood (Ill.) and Carlos Gimenez (Fla.) called for a ban on the companies Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) and Gotion.

They wrote that the companies’ “supply chains are deeply compromised” by links to those produced in Xinjiang, a region of China, where China has been accused of human rights abuses against the Uyghur ethnic group.

Specifically, they wrote that CATL “is affiliated with Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps … a paramilitary and state-owned system and the only entity expressly named in the [Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act] statute due to its egregious forced labor practices.”

And they said that Gotion “maintains extensive business relationships in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region … and in other provinces or regions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with companies directly linked to forced labor and involved in the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.”

CATL, which has a battery deal with Ford, denied the accusations levied by the lawmakers.

“A June 5 letter by U.S. members of Congress, accusing CATL of having connections to forced labor, is groundless and completely false,” the company said in a statement on its website.

“It cites information about suppliers in an inaccurate and misleading way. With some suppliers quoted in the letter, business relations ceased long ago,” it continued. “With other suppliers, business relations have been conducted with different subsidiaries and with absolutely no connection to forced labor or anything that violates U.S. applicable laws and regulations.”

Ford, Volkswagen and Gotion, which is partially owned by VW, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The accusations come as the world seeks to reckon with the full implications of a shift toward electric vehicles. The climate solution requires batteries whose minerals sometimes have supply chains involving forced labor — though the Inflation Reduction Act seeks to encourage automakers to incentivize supply chains stemming from nations that are more friendly to the U.S.

While Republicans have been vocal about human rights concerns in electric vehicle supply chains, many have also raised concerns about the implications of a shift for electric vehicles on the fossil fuel industry, as many in the party are supportive of oil.

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