US bill aims to end China’s ‘chokehold’ on US rare earth reserves

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators have proposed legislation to end China’s alleged “grip” on rare earth metal supplies, according to a statement from lawmakers on Friday (January 14th).

The law – proposed by Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican Tom Cotton – would aim to ensure that the United States can secure its supplies of rare earth minerals.

“The Chinese Communist Party is stifling the world’s supply of rare earth elements, which are used in everything from batteries to fighter jets,” Cotton said in the statement.

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“Ending America’s reliance on the CCP to mine and process these elements is essential to winning the strategic competition against China and protecting our national security,” he said. .

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), 80% of United States rare earth imports in 2019 came from China.

The bill is intended to “protect America from the threat of disruptions in the supply of rare earth elements, encourage domestic production of these elements, and reduce our dependence on China,” the report says. communicated.

The law would require the Departments of Interior and Defense to create a “strategic reserve” of rare earth minerals by 2025.

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This reserve would be responsible for meeting the needs of the military, the technology sector and other critical infrastructure “for a year in the event of a supply disruption”.

It also aims to provide greater transparency on the origins of components, restricts the use of rare earth minerals from China in “sophisticated” defense equipment and urges the Commerce Department to investigate “unfair trade practices.” from Beijing and to impose higher tariffs accordingly. .

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“Our bipartisan bill will strengthen America’s position as a global technology leader by reducing our nation’s dependence on adversaries like China for rare earth elements,” Kelly said. in the press release.

With 44 million tons of reserves, China has some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, according to the USGS, and enjoys looser environmental regulations than many of its competitors.

Beijing has used these deposits to exert political pressure. In 2010, China halted rare earth exports to Japan in retaliation for a territorial dispute.

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