G-20 Asked to Take REE Stand


"Range of business groups underscores the level of international worry."

An unusually broad coalition of business groups in North America, Europe and Asia has sent a letter to the heads of state of the Group of 20 major economies, asking them to make a commitment at their meeting this month in Seoul that trade in crucial rare earths will not be interrupted because of industrial policies or political disputes.

The range of countries and industries whose business groups signed the letter underscores the level of worry in corporations around the world about recent export restrictions placed on rare earths by China, which mines 95% of such materials. The minerals processed from them are needed for products and processes like cellphones, cars, clean energy and the production of missiles and sonar.

Some of the business groups signing the letter, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also signed a letter last winter asking that the Chinese government not discriminate in favor of domestic companies in the purchase of high-technology equipment.

The letter was dated Wednesday but not publicly released. It was obtained from an official at one of the business groups that signed it.

The Chinese government completely halted exports of raw rare earths to Japan on Sept. 21 during a dispute over Japan's detention of a Chinese fishing trawler and its crew, and it expanded that interruption in shipments to all countries, notably the United States and those in Europe, on Oct. 18. Chinese customs officials gave permission Oct. 28 for a resumption in shipments, but they have allowed some shipments to leave ports while continuing to block other shipments, industry officials said.

China has pursued an industrial policy in recent years of requiring companies to move factories to China so as to have access to rare earths.

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