The chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and the House Commerce Committee Chair are asking the Biden administration to blacklist four companies affiliated with Ford Motor Company’s China-based electric vehicle battery partner Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited.
The two companies are partnering on a $3 billion battery plant in Marshall.
Select Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-WI, and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-WA, allege they have evidence that Ford plans to adopt technology and software from four Chinese information technology suppliers. The companies, Gallagher and Rogers note, also supply IT technology to the Chinese military, the North Korean government, and China’s Ministry of Public Security.
Gallagher and Rogers sent letters last week to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken; U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; and Ford CEO Jim Farley. The first two letters seek the help of President Joe Biden’s department heads in blacklisting the companies. The final letter asks Farley to appear before the congressional committee to explain what, if any, diligence was performed before Ford formed its partnership with CATL.
In their letter to Yellen and Blinken, they stated: “As part of our investigation, we have reviewed portions of Ford’s signed agreements with CATL. One such agreement provides that will be providing IT tools and applications at Ford’s new factory in Michigan.”
The letter continues: “A cursory review of publicly available information uncovered [redacted] connections to the North Korean sanctions evasion activity as well as the company’s support of the Xinjiang genocide. It is indefensible for Ford to use the same cloud integration and data provider that is linked to North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs sanctions evasion activity.”
In particular, the congressman and congresswoman described Ford’s decision to partner with companies complicit in evading U.S. sanctions against North Korea “indefensible.”
In their letter to Raimondo, the two noted: “It is unconscionable for Ford to purchase critical IT infrastructure from a Chinese company that facilitate sanctions evasion activity on behalf of the North Korean government. Indeed, this poses significant cybersecurity risks, including the potential for malicious actors to exploit the very connections and data flows iPaaS tools are designed to facilitate. The same company that is supplying IT products and software to entities that support the North Korean government will have the capability to embed backdoors, spyware, and other forms of malware within Ford’s iPaaS infrastructure, which could compromise the confidentiality and integrity of Ford’s sensitive information.”
The above letters were included with the letter addressed to Farley.
Former U.S. ambassadors Joseph Cella and Peter Hoekstra are members of the Michigan – China Economic and Security Review Group. In a news release on Monday, Jan. 29, the duo called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to cancel the state-brokered Ford-CATL deal.
“From the outset this Ford-CATL ‘deal’, has been fast moving, shrouded in binding and punitive NDAS, with zero due diligence performed, defying the recommendations of our intelligence agencies, and their bi-partisan warnings that such ‘deals’ are threats to our national security,” they wrote.
“Either Governor Gretchen Whitmer, her staff, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) leadership and others involved in the signing of the binding and punitive NDAs [nondisclosure agreements] mandated by MEDC failed to read them, or, they indeed read them, but turned a blind eye to the information revealed. Or perhaps those controlling the licensing agreement documents did not provide the troubling information of the agreement to those signing the NDAs. Each scenario is unacceptable, and Governor Whitmer must clear the air on all of this.”
The pair continued: “In light of the nature of these scandalous revelations, we call on Governor Whitmer to cancel the multi-billion Ford-CATL ‘deal’ to protect our national security and return the money from this poor investment on risky technology to the taxpayers of Michigan.”
Hoekstra and Cella also called on Michigan’s Senate and House of Representatives to conduct a bipartisan investigation into the Ford-CATL project. They also called on the state legislature to pass a law prohibiting NDAs between government representatives and private companies.