EU to press China over rare earths supplies

A European Union envoy said he will press Chinese officials to maintain exports of rare earths needed by high-tech industry.

Last Updated: Nov 18, 2010, 00:37 AM IST

Beijing: A European Union envoy said on Wednesday
he will press Chinese officials to maintain exports of rare
earths needed by high-tech industry.

European companies are worried about Beijing`s plans
to reduce export quotas, said Matthew Baldwin, the union`s
director of market access. He was in Beijing for talks with
Ministry of Commerce and other officials.

"We shall be expressing very clearly our concerns on
this issue and stressing the importance of keeping that quota
open," Baldwin told reporters. He said he wanted to find out
about Chinese export plans for 2011.

China has about 30 per cent of global rare earths
deposits but accounts for about 97 per cent of production. The
United States, Canada and Australia have rare earths but
stopped mining them in the 1990s as lower-cost Chinese
supplies became available.

Global manufacturers that need rare earths to make
mobile phones, lightweight batteries and other high-tech
products were jolted when Beijing blocked shipments to Japan
last month amid a squabble over disputed islands.

China`s government says it needs to limit rare earths
production to conserve supplies and reduce environmental
damage from mining.

Baldwin said the EU was sympathetic to environment
concerns but wanted to be sure foreign and Chinese companies
were being treated equally.

"We have received a number of expressions of concern
about the downward trend in the quota," he said.

China`s export quota for rare earths this year is
24,280 tons, down 30 per cent from 2009.

The Commerce Ministry denied a Chinese newspaper
report that next year`s quota would be cut by a further 30 per
cent but no official figure has been announced.

PTI