China urged to clarify rare earth mineral policy

Beijing, CHINA: A US and a Chinese flag wave outside a commercial building in Beijing, 09 July 2007. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 06 July 2007 accused China of flouting the rules of global trade in its headlong economic expansion as the US administration 'has not been hesitant' to deploy trade tools against China, including a complaint lodged with the World Trade Organization over copyright piracy.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Now the global perspective, what's happening in business and economics around the world and how it affects the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged China to clarify its policy on rare earth metals. Those are the resources needed to make a lot of high tech gadgets. China produces the vast majority of the world's supply rare earths. Clinton's remarks come after reports China curbed has exports to the United States, Europe and Japan.

The BBC's Michael Bristow is with us this morning from Beijing. Hi Michael.

MICHAEL BRISTOW: Hi, good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: What is China's reaction to this?

BRISTOW: Well China's come out and basically denied that it's going to use rare earth metals as a bargaining tool. A spokesman for the Ministry of Industry said a few hours ago that basically they want to cooperate with other countries and export these rare earth metals so everybody can benefit from them. It must be said though this is a little bit of a mixed message because yesterday a foreign ministry spokesman said, "Well we've been trying to sovereign rights to control the flow of these rare earth metals outside the country."

CHIOTAKIS: Why are these metals so important? Why are we talking about this?

BRISTOW: Well they're used in a range of industries, both civilian industries and for military uses as well. And that's why people like the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is concerned. Because without these metals, many industries won't be able to function, won't be able to produce things. But it must be said that America and many of these countries do produce, or have produced these rare earths themselves. They just stopped producing them some time ago. So perhaps if China continues to put a block on exports or there's questions marks over it, they ought to go back to mining them themselves or look to alternative ways to make these products.

CHIOTAKIS: The BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing. Michael thanks.

BRISTOW: Thank you very much.

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