The Japanese government has proposed a change to its foreign trade laws to add industries related to rare earth elements, lithium and cobalt – commodities in greater demand amid the global effort to counter climate change.
Finance officials plus others from Industry, Transport and Education have been reviewing a proposed amendment to the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (FEFTA) that would add rare metals to the list of key industries protected from foreign takeovers to ensure national security.
The government wants to secure stable supplies of critical minerals because of growing demand for such elements in electric vehicles, renewable power generation equipment such as wind turbines, plus electronic devices.
Tokyo also wants to ensure it can explore and harvest mineral resources in its territorial waters in a bid to boost resource security and reduce the country’s dependence on imports.
China’s rare earth exports flat
In other rare earth news, China’s rare earth exports in August fell 0.5% from the previous month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.
These figures were the country’s lowest monthly levels since April.
Exports of the 17 minerals used in consumer electronics and military equipment were 3,936 tonnes last month.
That total was down from 3,955.4 tonnes in July but up 140% from August 2020, when overseas demand was severely reduced by the coronavirus pandemic.
China is the world’s top producer of rare earths, but the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and countries in Europe have all been working to ramp up production of critical metals because of concern about China’s dominance in this sector.
Push for tax incentives in US
Meanwhile, industry players in the US have been lobbying Congress to provide tax incentives for manufacturing of permanent rare earth magnets.
An industry coalition has backed a bill sponsored by Republicans Eric Swalwell and Guy Reschenthaler, which want provisions added to the federal infrastructure bill.
Rare earth magnets are used in EVs, wind power turbines, home appliances, electric motors and other items.
US President Joe Biden has set a goal that half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 should be zero emission autos that are either electric, hybrid or fuel-cell electric cars.
• Jim Pollard and Reuters