The U.S. will argue before the World Trade Organization (WTO) that China's limitations on its rare earth mineral exports are unfair, President Obama announced Tuesday. The hard-to-find minerals are used in the production of high-tech equipment such as smartphones and hybrid cars.
China produces almost all of the world's rare earth minerals, but it's not keen on selling them to other nations. Export restrictions keep most of the valuable metals in the country. According to the U.S., these restrictions unfairly allow China to hoard the minerals for its own use.
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The European Union and Japan agree, and they'll be joining the WTO case against China In 2010, China temporarily stopped shipments of rare earth minerals to Japan, striking fear into the hearts of Japanese electronics manufacturers.
Obama also insisted that the U.S. needs fair access to the rare metals in order to ensure that American companies can use them to develop advanced homegrown technologies.
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“Being able to manufacture advanced batteries and hybrid cars in America is too important for us to stand by and do nothing," Obama says. "We’ve got to take control of our energy future, and we can’t let that energy industry take root in some other country because they were allowed to break the rules.”
In defense of its rare earth mineral policies, China has said the restrictions are in place because excessive mining would cause environmental damage.
Why are these minerals so valuable?
The aptly-named rare earth minerals are extremely difficult to find in batches that are economically feasible to mine. Once taken up from the ground, they're used in such high-tech gear as fiber optic cables and laser guidance systems.
But they've been especially crucial to the advancement of one particular field: battery design. By using rare earth minerals, battery developers have been able to create ever-smaller, more power-efficient batteries.
Do you think China should be allowed to limit its exportation of rare earth minerals? Sound off in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
- rare earth minerals
- President Obama