Forgot password?
Sign up today and your first download is free.

This Week In Trade

Biden pushing infrastructure plan as deadlines loom on batteries, semiconductors

Posted: April 05, 2021

The Biden administration is going all out to push its infrastructure plan as an important counterweight to China, even as the president faces upcoming deadlines to make decisions that could impact trade in electric vehicle batteries and semiconductors -- two key sectors the administration has invoked in China competition.

Numerous Cabinet secretaries hit the Sunday show circuit to tout the president’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan and repeatedly invoked competition with China as a reason Congress should support it. Specifically, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm cited the need to invest in domestic electric vehicle production, which is also at the heart of a massive trade case the president is set to decide on this week.

“We're going to have auto workers, union auto workers, I hope, making cars one way or the other,” Buttigieg said on ABC’s This Week. “Why not have them leading the revolution into electric vehicles, which, by the way, there is a very hot competition for with China and a lot of other places.”

Granholm specified that the U.S. needs to invest in electric vehicle battery production, otherwise China will dominate the market. “We have to build the batteries for those electric vehicles,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union. “It gets back to manufacturing. Part of that investment is making sure that we can build the batteries in the U.S. for electrifying transportation and for energy storage, instead of getting those batteries from our economic competitors. China … came out with their most recent five-year plan. And they have a plan to corner the market on the supply chain for batteries.”

President Biden has a looming choice when it comes to electric batteries: He must decide by the end of the week whether to overturn the U.S. International Trade Commission's ban on Korea’s SK Innovation battery component imports. The ITC in February ruled SKI misappropriated electric vehicle battery trade secrets from LG Chem, another Korean company, and unfairly introduced products made based on those secrets into the U.S. market. The commission ordered the blocking of SKI battery imports for 10 years, though the company’s plant in Georgia can continue importing some components for Volkswagen for two years and Ford for four years.

Biden has until April 11 to conclude a 60-day presidential review of the ITC’s ruling, mandated by the statute under which the investigation was conducted -- Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative typically conducts the reviews and rarely overturns the ITC’s determinations. Trade analysts have said the ITC’s determination further complicates Biden’s ambitious climate goals, which involve ramping up production of electric vehicles. The U.S. does not have the domestic capacity to ramp up production and automakers rely on imports, they’ve noted. Further, a top SKI executive has warned that if Biden upholds the ITC’s determination, the company will have to shut down its plants in Georgia that are worth billions in investment and thousands of jobs.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department this week is holding a virtual forum on the resiliency of the semiconductor supply chains to inform a report it must submit to the president in early June per a Feb. 24 executive order. The report should identify “the risks in the semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging supply chains” and propose policy recommendations to mitigate those risks.

Comments for the report are due this week. The forum is set to take place on Thursday afternoon.

The semiconductor supply chain has been under heightened scrutiny due in part to the global chip shortage that has led some U.S. automakers to cut production. The administration has said the February order mandating the report is part of its response to that shortage.

The infrastructure plan includes provisions aimed at boosting U.S. semiconductor manufacturing capacity, calling on Congress to appropriate $50 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and research.

World Trade Organization members are also, again, staring down a deadline to wrap up negotiations to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has told members she wants a deal before the organization’s 12th ministerial conference at the end of November so ministers can focus on implementing a pact rather than negotiating one. But the talks have already missed the end-of-2020 deadline specified in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and members remain deeply divided over a raft of issues.

Negotiators will meet on Thursday to continue talks and set the stage for a heads-of-delegation meetings next week focused on the fisheries talks.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with fellow committee members Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), will unroll a “framework to overhaul international taxation” on Monday. The U.S. is one of more than 130 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Inclusive Framework negotiation a new international tax structure. One of the goals of the negotiations is to obviate the need for digital services taxes. The U.S. has claimed that DSTs instituted by France, the United Kingdom, India and others discriminate against American companies and have threatened to impose tariffs in response.


  • The Peterson Institute for International Economics on Wednesday will hold a webinar on a possible WTO negotiating agenda focused on the environment. Former Rep. James Bacchus (D-FL), who also served on the WTO’s Appellate Body and is now the director of the University of Central Florida's Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity, will take part alongside PIIE senior fellows Jeffery Schott and Anabel Gonzalez.
  • The Inter-American Dialogue on Wednesday hosts a webinar titled “Developments in the U.S.-China-Mexico Triangular Dynamic.” Participants include Luis Rubio, chairman of the Center of Research for Development; William Zarit, former minister for commercial affairs at the U.S. embassy in China and senior counsel at the Cohen Group; Alejandra Cuellar, Latin America editor for Mexico and Central America at Chinese Dialogue; and Margaret Myers, director of the IAD Asia and Latin America Program.
  • Former acting Defense Under Secretary for Policy James Anderson on Wednesday will discuss how to best leverage U.S. alliances and partnerships against China during a webinar hosted by the Institute of World Politics.
  • The Farm Foundation and Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute will host a virtual conference on trade and climate change on Wednesday and Friday. The conference includes panels featuring U.S. and Canadian agriculture and trade officials along with industry representatives and academics.
  • British House of Lords member Syed Kamall will discuss the UK foreign, security and trade policy during an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday.
  • The Washington International Trade Association on Thursday will hold a webinar on “Why Do We Trade?” as part of its worker centric and inclusive trade series. Panelists include former Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Grant Aldonas; Beth Baltzan, founder of the American Phoenix Trade Advisory Service; and Daniel Ikenson, director of policy research at NDP Analytics.
  • The Hudson Institute on Friday will examine the role Europe plays in the U.S.-China technology competition with a webinar featuring Mathieu Duchatel, director of the Montaigne Institute's Asia Program; Giulio Pugliese, lecturer at the University of Oxford; and Hudson senior fellows Thomas Duesterberg and Liselotte Odgaard. -- Brett Fortnam (bfortnam@iwpnews.com) with Maria Curi (mcuri@iwpnews.com)