Dingell warns China on handover of technology

Detroit Free Press, September 23, 2010

EV demand upsets veteran lawmaker

WASHINGTON -- The dean of the U.S. House of Representatives warned the Chinese government Wednesday against pursuing a plan that would require foreign automakers to turn over new electric-vehicle technology as a condition of doing business in China.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who has battled on the behalf of American auto companies since joining Congress in 1955, said in a letter to Zhang Yesui, the People's Republic of China's ambassador to the U.S., that such a plan "may lead to and validate retaliatory action" against Chinese imports.

Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a draft proposal coming out of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for making the nation a leader in electric-vehicle production within 10 years.

It suggested that foreign automakers wanting to produce electric vehicles in China for its growing market could be forced to accept a minority stake in joint ventures with Chinese companies and required to share new electric-vehicle technology with them.

American automakers are already required to partner with Chinese companies to do business in that country, but some consultants -- like Bill Russo, who used to be part of Chrysler's operations in China and who spoke to American Public Media's radio show Marketplace last week -- doubt the Chinese government will follow through on anything that would cause foreign automakers to make their newest technology elsewhere.

Dingell, however, said it was "enormously troubling" that the world's largest nation would require automakers to hand over proprietary technology in exchange for market access and that the U.S. and the World Trade Organization need to be ready to fight back, especially at a time when concerns have been raised about China manipulating its currency to get a competitive advantage.

Contact TODD SPANGLER: 202-906-8203 or at tspangler@freepress.com.

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Dingell warns China on handover of technology