U.S. Senator Marco Rubio asked the Biden administration to investigate Ford Motor Co’s plan to partner with PT Vale Indonesia, and China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt in a $4.5 billion nickel processing facility in Indonesia for the production of EV batteries.
Rubio, who is the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the venture threatens U.S. national security and asked the Securities and Exchange Commission, Treasury Secretary, Department of Commerce Secretary, and in Department of State Secretary, Antony Blinken, to investigate the plan.
This case is seen as a contradiction to US foreign policy. In a statement published on the Ford website, Huayou’s Senior Vice President, George Fang, characterized the joint venture as “one of the flagship projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).”
In his letter to Antony Blinken, Rubio also argued the Brazilian based company has a long history of supporting the BRI and cooperating with the Peoples’ Republic of China’s (PRC) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled companies. Rubio stated the Chinese BRI is one of the primary mechanisms China uses to spread its influence around the world and gain control of critical infrastructure and natural resources.
The U.S. Ambassadors to Indonesia, Sung Kim, celebrate the venture
This problem is further complicated by the remarks made by the U.S. Ambassadors to Indonesia, Sung Kim, in celebration of the Ford Motor Company’s participation in the venture. Ambassador Kim celebrated the agreement stating “I am deeply impressed by all the work that has gone into making this partnership a reality … This development is a positive step toward standard-setting operations that will not only improve the processes of clean and sustainable nickel extraction here in Indonesia, but also strengthens the trade and investment relationship between the United States and Indonesia.”
Rubio asked Blinken to conduct a review of Ambassador Kim’s remarks. In his opinion, American officials should be condemning efforts to undermine the strategic interests of the United States, not endorsing them. He argued the project would make U.S. more dependent on the PRC.
This is Ford’s first investment in Indonesia and demonstrates that automakers are increasingly interested in raw materials for the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, which make up about 40% of a vehicle’s price. Ford wants to cut costs and catch up to Tesla, the leader in the EV market. Indonesia, which has the largest nickel reserves in the world, has been working to develop nickel’s downstream industries with the ultimate goal of producing electric vehicles and batteries.