Rare Metals Issue at Stake in China Talks

Japan wants China to expand, not restrict export of rare earth minerals.

Trade in rare metals is one of the key issues Japan hopes to discuss with China in a high-level economic dialogue beginning August 28 in Beijing, the Japanese foreign minister said on August 25. Tokyo has urged Beijing to expand, not restrict, its exports of rare earth minerals essential for making components for computers, mobile phones and low-carbon emission autos, in which Japan has emerged as a pioneer.

But prices have spiked since China, which accounts for 97% of global rare metals production, announced it would slash its export ceiling by about 70% for the second half of this year.

"I would like to discuss a broad range of economic issues, including the issue of rare metals. Japan intends to raise this issue as one of its major interests," Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.

Market prices of some types of rare earth metal have soared more than 20% since China's July announcement that it planned to reduce shipments. Japan has already expressed concern to China about the trend.

Okada will co-chair the third such high-level economic talks between the two sides in Beijing on August 28 and 29, with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, the foreign ministry said.

Okada said Japanese government officials also hoped to discuss intellectual property rights and recent labor disputes in China.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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