Specialists in Rare Earths Say a Trade Case Against China May Be Too Late
By ECOTRADE on 3/15/2012 07:58:47
Even as the United States, the European Union and Japan jointly filed a trade case Tuesday against China over its export restrictions on strategic rare earth metals, many specialists could not help wondering whether it was too little and too late for Western and Japanese manufacturers.
President Obama heralded the case as a landmark when he announced it at the White House on Tuesday morning, signaling that the United States and its allies would require China to play by international trade rules.
"Our competitors should be on notice: You will not get away with skirting the rules," he said.
Whatever the eventual implications for world supplies of rare earths, in some ways a recent Western victory on a somewhat related trade case may have strengthened China’s hand.
China has been able to study those orders as it has redesigned its export restrictions on rare earths. The new quotas are as stringent as the old ones, making it harder for Western manufacturers to obtain rare earths in the quantities and with the timeliness their factories require. But the revamped quota rules could be easier for China to defend in front of a W.T.O. tribunal, than its earlier policies would have been.
Chinese trade statistics showed that exports of rare earths to Japan dropped to almost zero during the embargo, which continued for two months. Legal shipments to other markets increased little in that period, although smuggling to Vietnam and then to Japan increased.
source : The New York Times