Beijing: Rare earth trade claims baseless

March 13, 2012 at 6:38 AM

BEIJING, March 13 (UPI) -- Claims by Western governments that China is working to control the trade in rare earth minerals are baseless, a Chinese government spokesman said.

The U.S. and European governments plan to ask the World Trade Organization to press Beijing on its trade policies regarding rare earth minerals.

China is the world leader in rare earth minerals. An editorial published Tuesday in China's state-run Xinhua news agency describes Western efforts as "rash and unfair." The effort at the WTO may harm bilateral trade relations with those governments, it said.

Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying the claims were groundless.

"Despite huge environmental pressures, China has made efforts to maintain a certain level of exports," he said. "We hope other countries with rare earth resources can share the responsibility to provide rare earth supplies."

Beijing had said it imposed export restrictions because of environmental concerns. The WTO found last year that China didn't have evidence to support its claims, however.

At least 95 percent of the rare earth minerals on the world market come from China though Beijing has steadily cut back on exports in recent years.

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