Germany Urges China to Review Rare Metals Policy

China announced last month a 35% cut in rare earth exports for the first half of 2011, drawing complaints from Japan and the United States.

Germany has asked a visiting senior Chinese official to review its restrictions on exporting rare earth metals critical to manufacturing hi-tech goods, a German spokesman said on Jan. 7.

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, on Jan. 6, met Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle who asked that China "review once again restrictions that it has imposed or plans to impose" on the exportation of the critical minerals, Bruederle's spokesman said.

China announced last month a 35% cut in rare earth exports for the first half of 2011, drawing complaints from Japan and the United States. It has also hiked export taxes.

On Jan. 7 , the China Daily reported that the Ministry of Environmental Protection has approved tougher environmental standards for miners of rare earths, which could further drive up prices.

In recent years, Beijing has radically cut back rare earth metals exports resulting in rocketing prices for elements critical to manufacturing everything from iPods to low-emission cars, wind turbines and missiles.

China controls up to 97% of global rare earths production, according to Commerzbank, although this is mostly a result of low Chinese wages and lax environmental controls having made it unprofitable to mine the elements in other countries.

Bruederle issued a statement following the meeting with Li calling for "open, equitable and reliable access to Chinese raw materials."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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