Reconsidering rare earths

10.04.18

The U.S. appears to have shelved its plan to levy tariffs on a critical collection of minerals used in everything from hybrid vehicles to electronic gadgets and military hardware, reports Bloomberg.

The minerals, known as “rare earths,” include scandium and yttrium and are absent from the latest list of about $200 billion of Chinese goods on which the Trump administration plans to impose duties. They were among a number of items scrubbed from the preliminary target list released in July along with car seats and Bluetooth devices.

The inclusion of rare earths in the first place was odd. China produced more than 80% of the world’s rare-earth metals and compounds in 2017, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It has about 37% of global reserves and supplied 78% of U.S. imports.

China’s grip on rare earths supply is so strong that the U.S. joined with other nations earlier this decade in a World Trade Organization (WTO) case to force the nation to export more of the materials, not less, after prices spiked amid a global shortage. The WTO ruled in favor of the complainants, although prices eventually slumped as manufacturers turned to alternatives. (Source: Bloomberg


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