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South Korea’s President Yoon warns of crackdown on striking truckers By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol attends the ASEAN summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 11, 2022. REUTERS/Cindy Liu

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned that the government might step in to break up a nationwide strike by truckers, calling it illegal and unacceptable to take the national supply chain “hostage” during an economic crisis.

Thousands of unionised truckers kicked off their second major strike in less than six months on Thursday, and it is already showing signs of disrupting multiple industries in the world’s 10th-largest economy.

“The public will not tolerate taking the logistics system hostage in the face of a national crisis,” Yoon said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:) message late on Thursday, after saying exports were key to overcoming economic instability and financial market volatility.

“If the irresponsible denial of transport continues, the government will have no choice but to review a number of measures, including a work start order.”

According to South Korean law, during a serious disruption to transportation the government may issue such an order to force transport workers back to their jobs. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years of jail, or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).

If the government takes this route, it would be the first time in South Korean history such a order is issued.

Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong told reporters on Thursday that the ministry has begun groundwork for issuing the order.

The head of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU), Lee Bong-ju, said the truckers had no choice but to strike after the government stalled negotiations and have not sought dialogue since.

“The Yoon Suk-yeol government is threatening a hard-line response without any efforts to stop the strike,” Lee told reporters on Thursday.

For the first day of the strike, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) said it received 19 reports of cases of disrupted logistics. These included inability to bring in raw materials, higher logistics costs and delivery delays leading to penalties and trade with overseas buyers being scrapped.

In one instance, raw materials for a chemical company were delivered under police protection after the transport vehicle was blocked by striking truckers from entering a factory, KITA said.

The cement industry sustained revenue loss of an estimated 19 billion won ($14.26 million) on Thursday, lobby group Korea Cement Association said, after shipments slumped to less than 10,000 tonnes due to the strike. This compares with South Korea’s 200,000 tonnes of cement demand in the peak season between September and early December.

The union estimated about 25,000 people were joining the strike, out of about 420,000 total transport workers in South Korea. The transport ministry said about 8,000 people were camped out on Thursday at key transport points to protest overnight.

($1 = 1,332.4700 won)

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Venezuela, Chevron formally sign oil contracts in Caracas By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo and trading information for Chevron is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Deisy Buitrago

CARACAS (Reuters) -Venezuela’s oil minister and top representatives of state-run company PDVSA on Friday signed contracts with U.S. oil firm Chevron Corp (NYSE:) intended to help revive the nation’s oil output and expand operations.

The United States last week granted Chevron a six-month license authorizing it to take a broader role in existing projects in U.S.-sanctioned Venezuela, a move to encourage political talks between the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the country’s opposition towards elections.

The contracts include the PDVSA-Chevron joint ventures Petroboscan and Petropiar, officials said. The agreements are expected to help restore lost production, recoup debt owed to Chevron and generate more jobs. The projects currently are producing about 100,000 barrels per day of crude (bpd), leaving room for a rapid increase.

“This is an important step towards the right direction, but yet insufficient,” said oil minister Tareck El Aissami after the signing ceremony. “We demand the lifting of punishing measures that have hit our industry,” he added.

The event took place at PDVSA’s Caracas headquarters and was attended by El Aissami, Chevron’s Venezuela President Javier La Rosa and PDVSA President Asdrubal Chavez. Other details of the agreements were not disclosed.

Chevron did not comment on the meeting but said in a statement that it complies with U.S. sanctions and remains “committed to the safety and wellbeing of our employees and their families, the integrity of our joint venture assets, and the company’s social and humanitarian programs.”

Chevron also has not made public the content of a pre-agreement with PDVSA that it used to request the license from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The authorization was required because of U.S. sanctions on PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil sector.

Earlier this year, OFAC authorized Chevron to hold meetings with Venezuelan officials, including people specifically sanctioned by Washington, like El Aissami.

Chevron CEO Michael Wirth on Thursday said it is unlikely the company will add investment in the coming six months with Washington looking for additional political developments before its agrees to steps to boost output and expand operations.

The license, which gave a green light to Chevron for trading Venezuelan crude in the United States, does not allow royalties or any other tax payments to Venezuela as a way to avoid proceeds from sales reaching Maduro’s coffers.

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GM, LG investing $275 million to expand Tennessee EV battery plant

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General Motors revealed its all-new modular platform and battery system, Ultium, on March 4, 2020 at its Tech Center campus in Warren, Michigan.

Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors

General Motors and LG Energy Solution will spend an additional $275 million in their joint venture battery plant in Tennessee to increase production by more than 40%.

The joint venture, known as Ultium Cells LLC, said Friday that the new investment is in addition to the $2.3 billion announced in April 2021 to build the 2.8 million-square-foot facility. Production at the plant is slated to begin in late 2023.

Domestic production of battery cells in North America is expected to be crucial for automakers in the years to come in order to grow their EV footprints and qualify for federal incentives under the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.

The new investment by GM and LG Energy is expected to increase capacity from 35 gigawatt-hours to 50 gigawatt-hours when the plant is fully operational.

The Ultium Cells Spring Hill site is expected to join other joint venture battery cell manufacturing sites in Ohio and Michigan. A facility in Michigan is also under construction and is expected to begin production in late 2024.

“Ultium Cells will play a critical role in making GM’s commitment to an all-electric future a reality,” said Tim Herrick, GM’s vice president of EV Launch Excellence. “By expanding battery cell output at Ultium Cells Spring Hill, this investment will help GM offer customers the broadest EV portfolio of any automaker and further solidifies our path toward U.S. EV leadership.”

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U.S. Stocks Pare Losses After Jobs Report

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Indexes wobble after November employment data shows economy added more positions than anticipated

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