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WTO Asked by U.S., EU to Rule on China’s Rare Earth Restrictions

The U.S., European Union and Japan asked the World Trade Organization to resolve disputes over China’s limits on exports of rare-earths materials used to make goods including car batteries and clean-energy technologies.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office today requested that the Geneva-based trade arbiter form a dispute settlement board, after negotiations with China this year failed to produce results. Similar requests were made today by the EU and Japan, according to the statement.

China supplies about 90 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, and the EU and Japan joined the U.S. in a March WTO complaint saying the nation places unfair restrictions on the exports. The materials are used to make goods such as Boeing Co. helicopter blades, Nokia Oyj mobile phones and Toyota Motor Corp. wind turbines.

“It is vital that U.S. workers and manufacturers obtain the fair and equal access to raw materials like rare earths that China specifically agreed to when it joined the WTO” in 2001, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today in a statement.

China may act to block the first request for judges to investigate. A second request can’t be blocked.

China has said it curbed exports of the rare earths to conserve the minerals and protect the environment. The restrictions give Chinese manufacturers a competitive edge and the ability to affect global prices, according to the U.S.

The request for a dispute settlement board covers China’s exports of rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum.

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