China has long restricted the exports of rare-earth elements. These 17 crucial elements are used in a range of products, from smartphones, hybrid cars and even defense technology. Now, the US, European Union and Japan are calling on the World Trade Organization to help open up the channels for export.
A panel has been set up by the World Trade Organization to investigate China’s limited exportation of rare-earth elements. The request was made by the United States, European Union and Japan.
Seventeen rare-earth elements are used in the making a wide range of products, from smartphones and tablet PCs to weapons and hybrid cars. China currently supplies 95 percent of the world's rare-earth supply, but has capped its exports with quotas.
And since the quotas have been put into effect, global suppliers have been looking elsewhere to come up with the valuable elements, including in Canada, the US, Australia and South Africa.
Beijing has defended the move, saying the mining of rare-earths is harmful to the environment, but opponents say it’s to give Chinese companies an unfair advantage in their access to the materials.
If the World Trade Organization sides with the US, EU and Japan, China may need to amend its policies and give foreign companies better access to the rare-earths.
The US, EU, and Japan filed another complaint back in March with the World Trade Organization over the same issue. They say the current restrictions break free trade agreement rules.
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