Fight over rare earth (no that’s not the title of an L. Ron Hubbard book)
The U.S., along with the European Union and Japan, is asking the World Trade Organization to moderate talks with China over rare earth export restrictions. China controls 95% of the world’s rare earth trade, which are vital in making parts in just about every gadget you can think of. Phones, TVs, computers, and cars all have a little rare earth in their DNA. President Obama will formally announce the action later today.
While WTO rules technically permit export quotas on natural resources for environmental protection, trade lawyers say China’s export caps on rare-earth minerals violate the spirit of those rules. They note while Beijing has been cutting access to the resources by other countries through the quotas, it has been slow to implement rigid production limits at home that might truly protect the natural resources.
So the U.S. and other countries need rare earth materials to make all your stuff, but China has been limiting access to the goods. At the same time, Chinese firms have had more access to rare earth elements, giving them a manufacturing advantage.
The negotiations could take years, and this first step is seen partly as a political move by the Obama Administration in a re-election year.
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