Article republished with permission of Mississippi Today
In 2023, Reeves limited state business with China. Today, he’s requesting state funds for a Chinese company.
In 2023, Gov. Tate Reeves decried Chinese technology as “an existential threat” and signed bills limiting what business the state of Mississippi could do with China.
In a special session today, he’s asking Mississippi lawmakers to send millions in state taxpayer funds to a Chinese technology company to close an economic development deal.
A China-based technology company is one of four companies that will partner — pending legislative approval of a state incentive package proposed by Reeves — to construct a $1.9 billion Mississippi plant to make an electric battery to power commercial trucks.
Bill Cork, Reeves’ appointed director of the Mississippi Development Authority, confirmed to members of the Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that three major commercial vehicle companies will each own 30% shares of the company, while the Chinese company, which will provide the technology to manufacture the battery for the commercial vehicles, will own 10%.
Cork gave the presentation in advance of Thursday’s special session called by Reeves, who is asking the Legislature to appropriate around $350 million in state incentives to entice the companies to locate their project in Marshall County near the Tennessee state line.
Cork said he could not divulge the names of the companies involved in the project until after the Legislature passed the incentive package. But upon direct questioning from a Ways and Means member, Cork confirmed the technology provider is a respected Chinese company.
Cork said the Chinese company — which a Jan. 11 article published in trade magazine Transport Topics named as Eve Energy Co. — was needed in the partnership because American companies are not providing similar technology.
The other companies involved in the deal, according to media reports, are ve Energy.
“Every one of you has a cell phone with a battery made in China,” Cork told committee members. No House member raised objections during the meeting.
Upon further questioning from Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar, a Republican from Senatobia, Cork said the other three companies would be responsible for repaying the state if their commitments, such as providing 2,000 jobs, are not met. He said the three companies would each be responsible for repaying one-third instead of trying to collect from the Chinese company.
The Reeves administration’s reliance on the Chinese company to close the Marshall County electric battery deal counters recent messaging from the governor. In 2023, lawmakers passed two bills that limited Mississippi’s relationship with China: One that prevented Mississippi state agencies from purchasing small aircraft systems or drones produced by Chinese technology companies, and another that banned the TikTok app from state devices.
In signing the bills last year, Reeves said: “The Chinese Communist Party is not a friend to Mississippi or the United States. They want to exploit vulnerabilities in technology to harm our country and our citizens. We’re not going to let that happen in Mississippi, and that’s why I signed these two bills. It’s time for our country to wake up and recognize the existential threat that the Chinese Communist Party and other bad actors around the world pose to Americans. We’re putting the safety of Mississippians first, and if that means you can’t use TikTok and other compromised technology on state devices or purchase drones made in China, so be it.”
In the House committee meeting on Wednesday, Cork also answered general questions about electric vehicles — a contentious technology among many national Republican politicians. Notable GOP politicians across the country and in Mississippi have decried the emergence of electric vehicles, defending the fossil fuel industry and complaining about the federal government’s push for green energy.
Cork on Wednesday said several companies are planning to open electric vehicle battery production plants across America. He said MDA has tried to recruit some of those companies to Mississippi, but in the end many wanted more incentives than the state was prepared to offer. He said he felt confident in the state partnering with companies that were working on commercial vehicles.
“Transportation companies will figure out how to make this work,” Cork said. “If they don’t, they will pay us back.”
Cork also confirmed to the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday the project would have to receive federal approval because some of the unnamed companies involved in the project were foreign-owned. Of the four reported companies that are part of the deal, Daimler is Germany-based and Eve Energy is China-based.
–Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today