Sen. Ossoff jumpstarted negotiations that were at an impasse a week ago to secure a deal and save 2,600 Georgia jobs
SK President and CEO: “When the future of the plant was in jeopardy, Senator Ossoff provided leadership and helped us achieve a path forward.”
President Biden called Ossoff to confirm a deal had been reached and to thank him for his efforts
Washington, D.C. — This morning, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution dove into the intense final week of negotiations between SK International and LG Energy Solutions, detailing how U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff brought both sides back to the table to reach a deal, saving 2,600 skilled jobs in Georgia and billions of dollars of future investment in the state.
Over multiple meetings with senior executives from both companies and in close consultation with senior Biden Administration officials, Sen. Ossoff jumpstarted negotiations that were at an impasse a week ago to secure a deal and save the 2,600 Georgia jobs, working behind the scenes to secure a settlement that saved the Georgia battery plant ahead of the April 11 presidential veto deadline.
Read more from the AJC’s Greg Bluestein:
- As two rival South Korean industrial giants barreled toward a Sunday deadline still locked in a bitter U.S. trade dispute, Georgia officials grew increasingly worried a $2.6 billion SK Innovation project in Commerce that could employ 2,600 people would fall victim to the intractable feud.
- Most Georgia politicians joined calls urging President Joe Biden to veto a trade commission decision that was in favor of the company’s adversary, LG Energy Solution, which would have torpedoed the project, one of the largest economic development deals in state history.
- U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff took a different approach, one that the manufacturer’s top executive credited for helping to end the rift.
- The $1.8 billion settlement announced Sunday allows SK Innovation to complete construction of sprawling factories that will supply batteries for Ford and Volkswagen electric vehicles and serve as a key part of Biden’s plan to build U.S.-based infrastructure for electric vehicles.
- The pact also spares Biden of a difficult decision that could have alienated voters in Georgia, a state he narrowly won in November and is primed to be one of the nation’s most competitive political battlegrounds in 2022.
- Ossoff, the newly elected Democrat from Georgia, figured a presidential veto was a long shot at best and instead set about trying to broker a negotiated settlement between SK Innovation and LG Energy, according to three senior officials familiar with the discussions.
- But it required intense negotiations between two firms with a long history of distrust over accusations of stealing trade secrets and destroying documents. At stake was no less than a cornerstone of Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure program, which aims to rev up the nation’s electric vehicle supply chain.
- On April 2, less than two weeks before Biden’s deadline, Ossoff flew from Atlanta to Washington to meet with the chief executive of SK Innovation for more than three hours to prod the company to strike a deal and outline several potential pathways to an agreement.
- Congress was in recess and Ossoff and the executives were set to meet in a conference room near the Senate floor, but the group quickly relocated to a nearby hotel when Capitol Hill shut down after a man rammed his car into a police barricade, leaving one officer dead and another injured.
- After the meeting, Ossoff called a senior White House official to insist there was still a path toward a settlement, though it would require more rounds of negotiations and intense pressure on both rivals, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.
- Over that weekend, the officials said, the talks between the two South Korean firms restarted, though they didn’t gain much traction. On Monday, Ossoff met virtually with the chief executive of LG to urge more talks to bridge the gap.
- All the while, other state officials amped up the pressure. Gov. Brian Kemp lobbied Biden to reject the ruling and met with SK’s leader and other executives in recent weeks. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock also prodded the firms to settle and pressed Biden administration officials to preserve the plant.
- New U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in her role less than a month, also held multiple meetings with the rival firms, the officials said, and both companies stepped up aggressive campaigns to lobby Biden in their favor. Biden praised her “tireless work” in helping broker the pact.
- Ossoff stayed deeply involved over the last week, officials say. He asked both companies to brief his staff multiple times a day on the latest developments in case the talks went sour and needed another intervention.
- He was also in frequent contact with Biden administration officials over the fate of the deal, urging the talks to resume Friday night amid worries of another impasse.
- Officials say a marathon negotiated session that extended from late Friday through Saturday paved the way for a deal, and that Biden called Ossoff on Saturday to confirm the settlement had been reached. After the deal was confirmed on Sunday, SK Innovation singled out Ossoff for his role.
- “When the future of the plant was in jeopardy, Senator Ossoff provided leadership and helped us achieve a path forward,” said Jun Kim, the company’s chief executive.
- “This successful outcome will lead to billions more in investment in Georgia. The state is now positioned to be the nation’s leader in electric vehicle battery production.”
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