On Tuesday, President Obama announced a World Trade Organization (WTO) complaint against China for its export restrictions on rare earth metals, which are used in high-end electronic equipment, including smartphones, green technologies and even some weapons systems. The United States joined with the European Union and Japan in bringing the case before the WTO. Experts suggest the case will be ruled on near the end of 2012.
China currently produces about 95 percent of the world's supply of rare earth metals, but holds only 50 percent of global reserves. Several mining projects are expected to come online in the next several years to help diversify the global supply away from Chinese dominance. However, experts say many companies that rely on these materials have and are continuing to move manufacturing to China in order to take advantage of its domestic supply, which could have implications for domestic growth in clean tech and other high-end technology manufacturing.
Photo: A screen grab of the president’s announcement of the WTO complaint. Courtesy of the White House.