WTO rules in U.S.’s favor on rare earths

Posted on October 30, 2013 by Minerals Make Life

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that China’s export restrictions on rare earth minerals are incompatible with the organization’s rules, according to Financial Times, marking the second time that Beijing’s use of export quotas and tariffs as an industrial policy tool has been successfully challenged.

The case, brought by Japan, the U.S. and Europe, addresses China’s control of international trade in rare earths minerals, which have high-tech and military applications and also applies to tungsten and molybdenum.

China’s attempts to restrict global access to minerals are a perfect example of the kind of supply chain disruptions that can plague a U.S. manufacturing resurgence. Unfortunately, the minerals ruled upon in this case are not the only kind of minerals the U.S. relies on other countries for. The United States is now import reliant for 19 minerals, up from just seven in 1978.

Thankfully, our nation leads the world in the breadth of its commodity mineral reserves — a position that enables us to control our own destiny and boost U.S. manufacturing prospects simply by fixing a badly broken regulatory review process.

It currently takes up to five times longer to get approval to mine for minerals here than it does in other countries, which drives investment away from the United States.

Some in government have recently taken steps to address this problem: the House of Representatives passed the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013 — with support on both sides of the aisle — which aims to streamline the federal permitting process. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also took up the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 which would assess which materials may face future supply restrictions.

While this WTO decision is a step forward for better minerals access, it is even more critical that Washington put the right policies in place to fully utilize our domestic resources and workforce. Let’s get our economy on the path toward growth, instead of diverting resources to fight other countries’ policies.

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