China Faces Complaints for Restriction of Rare Earths

April 2, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. restriction (n.) 
[ri-strik-shuhn] –  a rule that controls or limit something
Example:   Use of fossil fuel should have restrictions to protect the environment.

2. element (n.) [el-uh-muhnt] – in Chemistry, a basic substance that cannot be separated into simpler substances
Example: Hydrogen is the first element because it is composed of one atom.

3. obtain (v.) [uhb-teyn] – to get or gain something with a certain amount of effort
Example:  Certain ingredients are expensive because they are hard to obtain.

4. mining (n.) [mahy-ning] – the process of getting minerals or precious rocks in the earth by digging deep through the ground.
Example:  Gold and other precious metals are obtained through mining.

5. in favor of (idiom) [in][fey-ver][uhv, ov; unstressed uhv or, especially before consonants, uh] –   to choose something over another
Example:  The judge ruled in favor of the victim.

Read the text below.

The United States (US), European Union (EU) and Japan have jointly complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about China’s restriction on rare earth exports.

Rare earths are elements that are difficult to obtain but are needed to manufacture electronic items such as television screens, camera lenses, smartphones, hybrid cars and renewable energy devices. Currently, China produces 95% of the world’s rare earth exports.

But China has recently placed limits on exporting these materials causing concern for other countries. The US, EU and Japan say the limited supply has resulted in higher prices.

US trade representatives argue that foreign industries will not be able to compete with China’s industries if China controls the price of rare earth exports. In a press conference, US president Barrack Obama said that such unfair practices break international trade agreements.

China’s defense is that it has established restrictions to avoid further environmental damage caused by too much mining of rare earths. The Ministry’s spokesperson, Liu Weimin, also said that the country’s recent policies are within WTO rules.

In an earlier case, WTO ruled in favor of the EU after it complained of China’s illegal restriction on materials like magnesium and zinc.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht says that China has not yet lifted the illegal restrictions, and the EU must again challenge China’s policies in order for EU businesses to gain access to materials. China will likely receive penalties if the WTO rules in favor of Japan, the US and the EU.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think it was fair for China to limit the exports of rare earth metal? Why or why not?
·         What could be the impact of US, EU and Japan’s complaints against China? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         How is a country’s economy related to its environment?
·         Do you think protection of the environment hurts the economy? Please explain your answer.


April 2, 2012