Ford Motor Company tells FOX Business that it will "respond in good faith" to a letter from U.S. lawmakers raising concerns over the automaker's recently announced partnership with a Chinese battery maker they say has a "troubling connection" to the "Chinese Communist Party and forced labor in Xinjiang."
The letter, authored by the chairs of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and the Committee on Ways and Means, was sent to Ford CEO Jim Farley months after his company revealed that it is investing $3.5 billion to build a factory in Michigan that will produce low-cost batteries for some of its electric vehicles.
The BlueOval Battery Park Michigan project in Marshall will be fully owned by a Ford subsidiary, but it will use technology licensed from Chinese battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), which the lawmakers are taking issue with.
"Ford has argued that the deal will create thousands of American jobs, further Ford’s ‘commitments to sustainability and human rights,’ and lead to American battery technology advancements," wrote Reps. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Jason Smith of Missouri, both Republicans. "But newly discovered information raises serious questions about each claim."
"Specifically, information 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," the letter says.
"Additionally, public financial disclosures and PRC media reporting suggest that shortly following the announcement of the partnership between Ford and CATL, CATL took steps to maintain effective control while appearing to divest its ownership stake in companies based in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) that allegedly are connected to forced labor practices," it continues. "This raises concerns about the troubling connection between CATL, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and forced labor in Xinjiang."
The lawmakers also wrote that "Ford claims that its proposed licensing agreement with CATL will create at least 2,500 jobs in the United States and ‘will be run by [Ford’s] people.’ However, we have learned that several hundred of the 2,500 jobs will be given to CATL employees from the PRC who will be in charge of setting up and maintaining the equipment."
They also said that "CATL’s ongoing relationship with a lithium mining company implicated in forced labor calls into question Ford’s commitment to responsible supply chains."
In response, Ford told FOX Business on Friday, "We’ve received, are reviewing, and will respond in good faith to this letter."
"Ford alone is investing $3.5 billion and will own and run this plant in the United States, instead of building a battery plant elsewhere or exclusively importing LFP batteries from China like our competitors do," the company said.
"We’re creating 2,500 new U.S. jobs while helping to strengthen domestic manufacturing and supply chains and reduce carbon emissions. This is good for the country, good for the planet and good for Ford’s business," it added.
The lawmakers in their letter are asking Ford, by Aug. 10, to send them a "copy of the licensing agreement between Ford and CATL -- including all appendices -- in both English and Chinese" and "all documents and communications between Ford and the Biden Administration referring or relating to the Ford/CATL licensing agreement and/or achievable tax credits," among other items.
FOX Business’ Bryan Llenas and Grady Trimble, and Gary Gastelu contributed to this report.