The Biden administration is worried about the “imminent wave” of Chinese battery factories being built in Mexico, which could further intensify the trade war between the US and China.
Chinese companies MG, BYD, and Chery have all been scouting sites in Mexico and talking with officials, according to a report in the Financial Times. MG plans to build a $2 billion factory, while BYD is ramping up investments worth hundreds of millions for its own factory. According to the Financial Times, an unnamed Chinese company is also building a $12 billion battery plant, which has US officials “worried.” BYD recently met ministers from at least four Mexican states, and the governor of Nuevo León, the state where Tesla is planning to build its gigafactory, said that BYD was building a factory there, according to reports.
Mexico, however, is delicately balanced between an enticing influx of Chinese investments and the risk of upsetting its North American neighbor, the report said.
Mexico is already the second-largest importer of Chinese cars after Russia. According to El País, supply company LGS reports that over the past year Mexico has purchased 260,000 Chinese vehicles. But obviously, the stakes are much higher than just ramping up sales in Mexico.
Mexico, the world’s seventh-largest auto-producing country, is in a prime position to benefit both from the global supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-intensifying US-China trade war. Cheaper labor, a “broad-based car supply chain,” and access to the North American free trade deal USMCA, all sweeten the pot, the report said.
Four Chinese electric vehicle companies are looking to set up shop in Mexico, according to the Financial Times. Meanwhile, both the US and Europe are setting strict limits on Chinese-made vehicles, alongside investigations into discriminatory subsidies in China. US’s Inflation Reduction Act is hoping to curb Chinese dominance on the market by serving up stricter restrictions on Chinese-made electric vehicles, batteries, and other parts, and pouring money into building out its own supply chain. If Chinese automakers are building in Mexico, this throws a wrench into the plan, in that China can out-win and outshine with high-quality EVs at lower prices.
Last month, members of Congress wrote a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai flagging their concerns, writing: “We are concerned by how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is preparing to flood the United States and global markets with automobiles, particularly electric vehicles (EV), propped up by massive subsidies and long-standing localization and other discriminatory policies.” The US has stated that it is not trying to block investments from China funneling into Mexico, but rather work toward applying trade rules between the two countries.
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