Beijing has moved to assuage international concerns over new restrictions imposed on the export of rare earth materials used in the manufacture of computers, lasers, missiles and superconductors.
“[We] will not use rare earths as an instrument for bargaining,” government spokesperson Zhu Hongren confirmed in an official statement obtained by China Daily.
“Instead, we hope to cooperate with other countries in the use of rare earths on the basis of win-win outcomes and jointly protect the non-renewable resource.”
Hongren also reiterated that China’s rare earth export restrictions were far from draconian and perfectly congruent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Nevertheless, the United States Trade Representative remains unconvinced.
To be sure, the government office recently kicked off an investigation in response to a petition from the United Steelworkers union, which alleged that Sino-based subsidies and protections violated stringent WTO rules.
“China uses export quotas, taxes, and licensing procedures to restrict exports of these minerals to users in the US and other countries,” claims the petition.
“These restrictions raise prices for manufacturers outside of China, lower prices for those within the country and create a powerful incentive to shift production to China in order to secure necessary supplies.”
It should be noted that the US Department of Energy (DoE) is currently attempting to craft a rare-earth strategy based on domestic development, recycling and researching alternative materials.