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The US, EU and Japan are bringing a trade case against China over rare earths export restrictions.
President Barack Obama sought to pressure Beijing today on trade issues, including ending restrictions on key export materials used for car batteries, flat-screen televisions and other high-tech devices.
The US, European Union and Japan filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization today about Chinese limits on exports of rare earths.
Stating that Americans had to "take control of our energy future," Obama announced the US, European Union and Japanese joint trade case against China, which is aimed at lifting the export restrictions China has placed on the rare earths.
Couching the trade fight as a defense of the American worker against unfair business practices and artificially low prices set by foreign subsidies, Obama said, "The key is to make sure the playing field is level."
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China's exports account for 97 percent of the world's output of the 17 rare earth metals, according to CNN. Some of the rare earths include cerium, neodymium and dysprosium as well as tungsten and molybdenum, many of which are used in "green" technologies.
China has tightened the restrictions on such materials, reducing the quota by 32 percent for domestic companies and 54 percent for foreign-invested companies in 2010, said CNN.
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EU trade chief Karel De Gucht said in a statement, "China's restrictions on rare earths and other products violate international trade rules and must be removed. These measures hurt our producers and consumers in the EU and across the world, including manufacturers of pioneering hi-tech and 'green' business applications," according to Reuters.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk also said in a statement, "China continues to make its export restraints more restrictive, resulting in massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains for these materials throughout the global marketplace," according to Reuters.
Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that allegations that it monopolized trade on rare earths was "groundless," stating, "Despite such huge environmental pressure China has been taking measures to maintain rare-earth exports. China will continue to supply rare earths to the international market," according to Bloomberg.
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China's official Xinhua news agency reported today that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it would be able to respond to the WTO complaint.
"Previously, China has been in constant communication and contact with related countries about its export policy on raw material products, and has emphasized repeatedly that the policy aims to protect resources and the environment, and realize sustainable development," the ministry said in a a statement carried by Xinhua.
The state news agency likewise cited Miao Wei, the minister of industry and information technology, as saying that China was actively preparing a rebuttal.
"We would feel sorry for their decision to complain to the WTO," he was quoted as saying.