China Said to Be Blocking Vital Exports

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) — U.S. trade officials say they’re looking into reports that China is curtailing shipments of rare earths to the United States and Europe.

China mines 97 percent of the specialist metals vital to technologies ranging from hybrid cars to computer monitors, the BBC reported.

A New York Times report, citing anonymous industry sources, said Chinese customs officials had tightened export restriction on the rare earths, while the official China Daily said quotas would be cut 30 percent next year to stop over-mining, a report denied by China’s commerce ministry.

“The report is completely false,” the ministry said in a statement.

“China will continue to supply rare earths to the world, and at the same time, to protect usable resources and sustainable development, China will also continue to impose restrictive measures on exploration, production and import and export of rare earths,” the statement said.

The U.S. Geological Survey recognizes 17 types of rare earths, used in everything from catalytic converters in cars to computer monitors, televisions and in pharmaceuticals.

The United States, the world’s major buyer of rare earths, mined no rare earth elements of its own last year.

“We’re seeking more information in keeping with our recent announcement of an investigation into whether China’s actions and policies are consistent with WTO rules,” Nefeterius McPherson of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said.

European Union trade spokesman John Clancy told the BBC he was unable to confirm claims made by European industry officials of China blocking shipments to the EU.

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