China considering US rare earth export curbs: report

May 29, 2019 09:32
A file picture shows samples of rare earth minerals on display at a minerals facility in California. There is speculation that China may restrict the export of such materials to the US amid the trade row between the two nations. Photo: Reuters

Beijing is "seriously considering" restricting exports of rare earths to the United States amid the trade war between the two sides, according to the editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper.

“Based on what I know, China is seriously considering restricting rare earth exports to the U.S. China may also take other countermeasures in the future,” editor Hu Xijin wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Although Global Times is not one of China’s official media, it is published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Party newspaper and is widely read.

Rare earths minerals are a group of 17 elements that are critical to the production of many advanced items, including high-tech consumer electronics and military equipment.

Rising trade tensions have led to concerns that Beijing will use its dominant position as a supplier of rare earths for leverage in the trade war between the US and China.

A senior official from China’s National Development and Reform Commission told the Xinhua news agency on Tuesday that Beijing will give domestic demand for rare earths priority, but will meet reasonable demand from other countries.

The official at China’s national planning body did not directly answer whether Beijing would restrict rare earth exports to the United States.

China accounted for 80 percent of rare earth imports between 2014 and 2017 by the United States, which has excluded them from recent tariffs along with some other critical Chinese minerals, Reuters noted.

Beijing, however, has raised tariffs on imports of US rare earth metal ores from 10 percent to 25 percent from June 1, making it less economical to process imported material in China.

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