South Korea has called on China to ensure “a fair business environment” for battery manufacturers to compete for business across the two countries.
South Korea’s trade minister Paik Un-gyu (pictured) made the plea during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Miao Wei in Seoul, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Seoul has confirmed it is in direct talks with China aimed at patching up a trade row that led Beijing to slap sanctions on the use of South Korean batteries.
As BBB reported last week, signs that the two countries were attempting to bury the batteries hatchet emerged as South Korean and Chinese firms formed two joint ventures to produce lithium-ion battery materials from bases in China.
Further evidence of a Korean “land grab” of future European EV markets came last week with SK Innovation's announcement that it plans to invest around KRW1 trillion ($920 million) to build an electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Hungary and to expand production facilities for EV batteries in South Korea.
The battery maker said it would set aside KRW840 billion for the Hungary plant, which it will start building in February. By 2020, the plant will be capable of producing 7.5GWh of batteries each year.
South Korea is backing plans by the country’s battery giants to inject a total of KRW2.3 trillion ($2.3 billion) into the sector over the next three years, to expand production and challenge China’s increasing dominance of the market.
The move, led by battery giants LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation Companies is in response to Chinese sanctions the firms say effectively block the use of South Korean batteries in electric vehicles in China.
Korean firm SK Innovation has expanded its manufacturing plant to ramp up its lithium-ion battery production.
The company, the energy holding unit of SK Group, has doubled its battery plant in Seosan, South Chungcheong Province, to produce batteries for electric vehicle OEMs.
South Korea’s SK Innovation and Germany’s Continental have ended their battery joint venture due to low demand for EVs.
The venture, SK Continental E-motion, was launched in January last year. SK Innovation took charge of supplying battery cells while Continental was responsible for battery control systems.