Beijing has responded angrily to a US executive order to look into the country’s dependence on rare earths from China.
The order announced Wednesday could lead to tariffs, quotas or other possible import restrictions.
In China, the news was met with irritation. Tencent news, for instance, said the US had “entered a state of national emergency”.
China does lead exports and has the top position in production of the group of 17 mineral elements that are is a vital material for the manufacture of technology products from mobile phones to military hardware.
In the tit-for-tat trade war, China is holding back exports or rare earths and the US, EU, Australia and others are re-opening old mines and exploring for new deposits.
Rare earths are actually plentiful, but difficult to get to – China’s are cheaper because they are more accessible, mining companies say.
The Peoples’ Daily reported that the US is afraid of being “stuck” and relying on China for its supplies. Washington is fully fired up to support its domestic rare earth industry, the paper reported.
“Key minerals have always been the focus of attention in the US,” it reported. The Rare Earth Executive Order published by the White House shows that 80% of the total imports of rare earth compounds and metals in the United States last year came from China.
Reuters said that although the US was once a major producer of rare earths, China’s influence in the industry has been a bargaining chip in the Sino-US trade dispute.
• Chris Gill with Reuters.
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