The People’s Daily, a flagship newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary that the U.S. shouldn’t underestimate China’s ability to fight the trade war. The country is “seriously” considering restricting rare earth exports to the U.S., the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, said in a tweet. An official at the National Development & Reform Commission told CCTV that people in the country won’t be happy to see products made with exported rare earths being used to suppress China’s development.
The U.S. relies on China for about 80% of its imports of rare earths, the group of materials that are used in everything from electric cars to high-tech military equipment. Rare earths, which include elements such as cerium and dysprosium, are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust but mine-able concentrations are less common than other ores.
China produces about 70% of the world’s mined rare earths and its industry is dominated by a handful of producers including China Northern Rare Earth, China Minmetals Rare Earth Co., Xiamen Tungsten and Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co. Some of the country’s listed rare earths stocks are small caps, making them easy targets of speculation.
The country has taken a proactive approach to managing the global market, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a report, citing steady exports in the 1990s that depressed prices and a 40% reduction in its export quota in 2010 that led to a spike.
The last time rare earths were a political football in 2010, it was because China cut off exports to Japan in an effort to force high-end manufacturing to migrate. That set off a massive run-up in rare earth metal prices, investment in new mining facilities and a drive towards substitution. Faced with the threat of losing it dominant position China relented and began exporting again. Prices collapsed, most of the new miners went bust and some semblance of normality returned. How is this occasion different?Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top