The Biden administration remains apprehensive about Indonesia’s environmental, social, and governance practices and is assessing the feasibility of an agreement, according to the sources. Additionally, the administration intends to hold more discussions with U.S. legislators and labour organizations soon.
The United States and Indonesia will engage in talks to progress a potential partnership for mineral trade, explicitly focusing on nickel for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. This discussion, involving Indonesian President Joko Widodo and U.S. President Joe Biden, aims to pave the way for formal negotiations. However, concerns about Indonesia’s adherence to environmental, social, and governance standards remain a focus for the Biden administration, which is also planning to consult further with U.S. lawmakers and labour groups.
While there’s optimism about the partnership, significant work is still required before formal negotiations can be announced. These discussions, including U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and other White House officials, are concentrating on ensuring that nickel production in Indonesia minimizes environmental impact. Indonesia, possessing the largest nickel ore reserves globally, has faced criticism for environmental issues like deforestation and water pollution linked to nickel mining.
The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) stipulates that EV batteries must contain minerals produced or assembled in North America or a free trade partner to qualify for tax credits. As Indonesia isn’t a free trade partner with the U.S., the administration is considering excluding nickel that is mined in Indonesia but processed in China from these credits.
The global nickel industry was valued at USD 33.5 billion in 2022, but the market is currently oversupplied. The U.S. faces challenges in this area, with its only nickel mine set to close soon and lacking a nickel smelter. This poses a risk to President Biden’s ambition for the U.S. to be a leader in EV manufacturing.
The U.S. government has already invested in domestic nickel processing, with nearly USD 115 million allocated to Talon Metals for a plant in North Dakota, supplying Tesla Inc. However, Talon’s proposed nickel mine in Minnesota is facing challenges, including opposition from Indigenous groups. This situation has led to calls from U.S. miners for the Biden administration to prioritize domestic mining projects over international partnerships.