October 6, 2010 — WASHINGTON (Source: AFP) — The United States called Wednesday for the world’s major economies to look at ways to ensure a free flow of rare minerals used in gadgets after Japan said China cut off shipments for political reasons.
US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke praised the Asia’s two largest economies for agreeing to talks next week and hoped “there will continue to be a free flow” of rare earths.
“That’s something that I think all the countries perhaps will have to address in the upcoming G20,” Locke said, referring to the November summit in South Korea of 20 major economies.
“We need to have that multinational dialogue, especially on some of these very, very rare metals that specific countries may have a greater abundance of,” Locke said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Locke said that rare metals were crucial for technological innovation, along with broader international trade.
China is the main source of rare earths which are essential to everything from iPods to hybrid cars and eco-friendly light bulbs.
Japanese industry reported that China cut off shipments of rare earths last month after a sharp deterioration in relations when Tokyo arrested the captain of a Chinese trawler near disputed islands.
Japanese Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata has vowed to press China not to hold up shipments of the minerals and other commodities during the talks next week to be brokered by South Korea.
China has denied it cut off shipments. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, said that Beijing “will not block the rare earth market.”