On 13 March this year, the EU, US and Japan commenced dispute proceedings against China under the World Trade Organization (WTO). Their complaint was that Chinas rare earths (REEs) export policies flouted WTO trade provisions.
For Japan, which before now has never filed a complaint against China with the WTO, the strangulation of REE supply could have devastating consequences for its high-tech electronics and technology industry. Its economy depends on impo rted raw materials to manufacture items such as LCD screens, smart phones and laptop computers.
The EU relies on REEs imports from China to make products such as wind turbines and magnets for batteries used in hybrid and electric vehicles for its growing green technology industry.
In the US, REEs are used in both new energy technologies and numerous medical devices. Of chief concern, however, is the role REEs play in defence applications: jet fighter engines, missile...