Lead battery industry ponders impact of proposed US tariffs on Chinese goods

Lead acid battery separators have been added to the US administration’s list of Chinese products that could be hit with tariffs of 25% in an ongoing tit-for-tat trade battle between China and the US.

More than 1,300 products were added to the Section 301 document, released on April 3, and while lead batteries themselves are not on the list, “parts of lead acid storage batteries, including separators therefor” are listed under reference numbers 85079040 and 85079080.

“The US Trade Representative has determined that the acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation covered in the investigation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict US commerce,” the document says, calling for public comments on the issue and proposing the 25% duty on Chinese goods.

The move came after China said it would impose tariffs on US goods including soy beans, frozen pork and fruit from the US­ which in itself was a response to Donald Trump’s proposal to add a 25% tariff to imported steel and 10% on aluminium.

Global lead battery separator manufacturer Daramic says the proposal will not affect its business since it is strategically placed around the world.

“If the trade war intensifies, it could impact companies with large import/export businesses,” said global marketing director Dawn Heng. “We would recommend the battery industry get a local sourcing strategy to avoid potential cross-country risks.

“With regard to Daramic, one of our key advantages is our global footprint, where we have 10 plants in each strategic region (US, Europe, China, India, Thailand), and they are almost all regionally balanced on supply and demand.

“In fact, we see our advantage even more clearly now with the trade actions between China and the US.”

Unlike lead acid batteries, lithium cells themselves are included on the list as well as parts of lithium batteries.

Responding to the tariffs, the Energy Storage Association said it anticipated that the inclusion of Chinese battery components in the tariffs would be likely to have a negligible impact on the growth of the energy storage market.

“Nonetheless, ESA is concerned by the battery tariffs because the administration is creating unnecessary uncertainty for the US energy storage market,” said ESA CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman.

“If these tariffs are adopted, the companies and people who plan, build and service battery storage facilities will be faced with risk that may inhibit storage deployment, even as the US looks to strengthen its energy infrastructure and enhance resilience.”

Battery Council International director of strategic communications Lisa Dry told BESB that the policy committee was “reviewing the proposed tariffs and what they mean to the industry”.

In what some observers see as a placatory move, Chinese president Xi Jinping said at the Bo’ao forum in Hainan, China, on April 10 that he intended to lower tariffs on imported cars.

Public response to the 301 document must be submitted by April 23.