China: intl' tech transfer needed to make greener rare earth

14:06, November 17, 2010      

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As the world's major rare earth supplier, China needs international cooperation on the technologies of rare earth production needed to use the resources more efficiently and in a more environmentally-friendly way, said Yao Jian, spokesperson of Ministry of Commerce, on Tuesday in Beijing.

Multinationals and developed countries should "share their technologies (of rare earth production) by transferring those technologies at a reasonable price" to help achieve the global responsibility of environmental protection, Yao said.

China holds 30 percent of the world's rare earth reserves but contributes 80 to 90 percent of world's rare earth production and trade. However, the United States and Japan, which buy nearly 70 percent of China's rare earth exports, still criticize China's restriction on rare earth exports. For the first nine months of the year, China’s rare earth export to Japan soared 167 percent over the same period of last year.

However, as developed countries hold patent dominance on rare earth production, China's rare earth exports have not brought good returns. Baosteel Rare Earth, China's largest rare earth enterprise, even reported losses last year.

China cut the quotas for the mining, processing and exports of rare earth by 25 percent, 23 percent and 39 percent, respectively, from 2009 to 2010. A 15 to 25 percent export tariff has also been levied. And 41 rare earth products have been listed in the category of prohibited processing trade. Rare earth exporters, including 10 foreign companies, are facing stricter supervision on their qualification.

All those measures aim to "to strengthen the environmental protection" and "comply with the WTO rules," said the spokesperson.

Considering these factors, China hopes to develop more cooperation with other countries on technologies of environmental protection in the whole process of rare earth production.

Yao urged multinational corporations and developed countries to make more efforts to facilitate the transfer of and cooperation in rare earth technology.

"More effective intellectual property rights protection, either in rare earth or in any other manufacturing sector, is definitely important. However, that must be integrated in the larger goal of environmental protection," Yao stressed.

According to a report by Xinhua today, China's foreign trade of mineral products increased sharply by 49 percent year on year to 524 billion U.S. dollars in the first nine months of the year. Mineral products account for one-quarter of China's total foreign trade volume.

By Li Jia, People's Daily Online


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