WASHINGTON: Two US senators have proposed a law aiming to end China’s alleged “chokehold” on rare-earth metal supplies, a statement by the lawmakers said Friday (Jan 14).
The law – proposed by Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican Tom Cotton – would aim to ensure the United States can guarantee its supplies of rare-earth minerals.
“The Chinese Communist Party has a chokehold on global rare-earth element supplies, which are used in everything from batteries to fighter jets,” Cotton said in the statement.
“Ending America’s dependence on the CCP for extraction and processing of these elements is critical to winning the strategic competition against China and protecting our national security,” he said.
Eighty percent of the United States’ rare-earth imports in 2019 were from China, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The Bill aims to “protect America from the threat of rare-earth element supply disruptions, encourage domestic production of those elements, and reduce our reliance on China”, the statement said.
The law would require the departments of the Interior and Defense to create a “strategic reserve” of rare earth minerals by 2025.
That reserve would be tasked with responding to the needs of the army, the tech sector and other essential infrastructure “for one year in the event of a supply disruption”.
It also aims to ensure greater transparency on the origins of the components, restricts the use of rare-earth minerals from China in “sophisticated” defense equipment, and urges the Commerce Department to investigate Beijing’s “unfair trade practices” and impose higher customs duties accordingly.
“Our bipartisan Bill will strengthen America’s position as a global leader in technology by reducing our country’s reliance on adversaries like China for rare earth elements,” Kelly said in the statement.
With 44 million tons of reserves, China possesses some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, according to the USGS, and benefits from 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 over a territorial dispute.