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US, Japan Set to Sign Trade Deal on EV Battery Minerals

The deal aims to strengthen their battery supply chains, by reducing dependence on China, and help Japanese carmakers access to a new tax credit for electric vehicles in the US.

US Trade Rep welcomes trade deal with Japan on critical minerals for EVs.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said: "Japan is one of our most valued trading partners and this agreement will enable us to deepen our existing bilateral relationship." File photo: Reuters.


The United States and Japan announced a trade deal on Tuesday covering minerals for batteries in electric vehicles.

The deal aims to strengthen their battery supply chains and help Japanese carmakers access to a new tax credit for electric vehicles in the United States.

The swiftly negotiated agreement prohibits the two countries from enacting bilateral export restrictions on the minerals most critical for EV batteries, according to senior Biden administration officials. The minerals include lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese.

The deal also aims to reduce US-Japanese dependence on China for such materials by requiring collaboration to combat “non-market policies and practices” of other countries in the sector and on conducting investment reviews of foreign investments in their critical minerals supply chains.


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Minerals-focused trade deals are one way that the Biden administration hopes to open up access for trusted allies to the $7,500 per vehicle EV tax credits in last year’s climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act.

Half of the credit for purchasing consumers is reserved for North American-assembled vehicles and batteries, a source of some tension with the European Union, Japan and South Korea, who worry that their car and battery makers will be rendered uncompetitive.

The other half of the credit is contingent on at least 40% of the value of critical minerals in the battery having been extracted or processed in the United States or a country with a US free-trade agreement or recycled in North America.


‘Urgent issue’

Japan was working with the United States to sign the agreement in Washington on Tuesday, trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters in Tokyo.

“As the demand for electric vehicle batteries is expected to grow significantly, securing important minerals essential for their production is an urgent issue,” Nishimura said.

The US Treasury is expected to define sourcing requirements for the EV tax subsidies by the end of this week, providing eagerly awaited guidance to the auto, battery and clean energy sectors.

But asked whether the trade agreement would qualify Japan-sourced batteries, components and vehicles for that part of the tax credit, the officials said that determination was up to Treasury.

Nishimura said that EVs made with minerals mined or processed in Japan were expected to meet tax exemption requirements under the US act.

The US officials said that the US Trade Representative does not intend to seek approval by Congress for the minerals trade agreement because it falls under the agency’s authority to negotiate sectoral trade agreements at the executive level.

But they said provisions in the deal to promote labour rights and recycling in their battery mineral supply chains would help both countries.

“Japan is one of our most valued trading partners and this agreement will enable us to deepen our existing bilateral relationship,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

“This is a welcome moment as the United States continues to work with our allies and partners to strengthen supply chains for critical minerals, including through the Inflation Reduction Act.”

The two countries agreed to review the minerals agreement every two years, including whether it is appropriate to terminate or amend it.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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