US, EU and Japan take Chinese rare earth dispute to WTO

The US is leading a push against a Chinese stranglehold on rare earth minerals, with the EU and Japan also planning to take a case to the World Trade Organisation.

Following the publishing of a report by the Associated Press, President Obama is expected to announce today that the trio will demand talks with China over rare earth exports.

The complaint to the WTO will claim that China has been cutting exports to ensure that prices are kept high, despite claims of environmental needs.

China is in control of roughly 95 percent of rare earth production and has previously riled foreign nations by cutting exports.

Rare earths are used in countless applications, most notably in cutting edge electronics and in military defence. Prices have soared when China has withheld exports – in the past, products such as hard drives became 10 percent more expensive as rare earth prices fluctuated.

Japan has been at the brunt of China’s cuts, when a dispute erupted that led to China withholding any rare earth exports at all.

The EU has also vented its frustration in the past, with China’s claims that it had cut exports on environmental grounds were met with suspicion.  TechEye was told by EU representatives last year that it was prepared to take the dispute all the way to the WTO, and it appears it will be following through.

There have been initiatives to move production of the valuable minerals away from China. China’s near monopoly on the minerals at the moment is shaking world leaders elsewhere, who are beginning to fully address the need to find new resources elsewhere. A full announcement is expected soon.