[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]
The U.S. Transportation Department will study the impact of the latest electric vehicle (EV) battery trade ruling against SK Innovation Co. on the new U.S. administration’s green push, the department’s deputy secretary nominee said, giving hope to the South Korean battery maker seeking to reverse the ruling.
Deputy Transportation secretary nominee Polly Trottenberg said during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday (local time) that the department is already aware of the issue and will analyze the impact of the ITC ruling on the Biden administration’s green transportation goals.
Her comment was made in response to U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock who called on the U.S. Transportation Department to provide President Biden an analysis of the ruling’s effect on the new administration’s commitment to making the nation’s transportation infrastructure greener.
The Georgia Democrat has voiced his support for SK Innovation, saying that the International Trade Commission’s Feb. 10 ruling against the South Korean battery maker “seriously threatens” the future of the company’s $2.6 billion investment plan in Georgia that is expected to create 2,600 green jobs.
SK Innovation’s massive electric vehicle battery plant under construction in Commerce, Georgia is the single largest investment project by a foreign business in the state’s history.
Senator Warnock criticized the ITC decision is “a severe punch in the gut” for Georgia workers and Biden’s push for electric vehicles, adding President Biden has 60 days to reject or allow the ruling to stand.
On Feb. 10, the ITC gave its final decision siding with LG Energy Solution, a battery spinoff of LG Chem that accused its rival local battery maker of misappropriating trade secrets related to EV battery technology. The ITC issued a limited 10-year exclusion order prohibiting U.S. imports of some lithium-ion batteries from SK Innovation.
Meanwhile, the ITC on Thursday published its two-year investigation on the case, with the 96-page detailing evidence of SK Innovation’s “deliberate and illegal actions” in misappropriating 22 of LG Energy Solution’s trade secrets worth billions of dollars spanning the entire EV battery business and extraordinary bad faith efforts” to hinder the investigation.
The Commission wrote that “SK has a history of collecting documents about LG and SK’s competition with LG, and then destroying those documents. ..What is most remarkable about SK’s spoliation … is the combination of the scope of spoliation with its frequency. It was not enough for SK to destroy or hide its records once, because SK then, unchastened, collected more LG propriety information, only to destroy or hide those records as well.”
The Commission wrote that it considered “SK’s destruction of evidence in this case to be extraordinary” and that “[t]he destruction was ordered at a high level and was carried out by department heads throughout SK.”
In concluding a 10-year ban in violation of the Section 337 of the U.S. Tariff Act, it added that “the record supports the Commission’s finding that it would take ten years for SK to develop products without the 22 trade secrets.
By Minu Kim
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