back to article WTO: China being naughty over rare-earth exports

China's a naughty boy then according to the World Trade Organisation: they have just lost a case about their restrictions on the exports of raw materials. This has implications for every tecchie's favourite metals, the rare earths. You'll recall that Japan has found billions of tonnes of them under the Pacific, tonnes that may …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Tax rate of 250%

    I was talking on the phone with a customer yesterday on the mainland who needs to purchase a fairly sophisticated ADC unit that we sell for ~$3000 - if he imports it through normal channels he's expecting to pay $7500 additional duty.

    The WTO can posture all they like but they've got no balls - and the Chinese know it.

  2. paulc

    CFL's... meh...

    "Almost all of the ballasts for CFLs and other light bulbs are made in Illinois: these good high-paying jobs would have to move if rare earths could not be exported from China and only products made of rare earths could be."

    a far better solution would be to switch all indoor lighting over to low voltage DC and use LEDs...

    Generate the DC voltage in the consumer unit and then you wouldn't need such bulky devices in the bulb holders and it would also kill so much electronic noise in the house by getting rid of the circuitry that's currently in each CFL that generates ridiculous amounts of noise... (I would be able to play my guitars with single coil pickups rather than having to use my guitars with humbucker pickups when the lights are on...)

    LEDs last far, far longer than CFLs anyway... it would in the long run be far better for the environment as you wouldn't be wasting all that material on building the CFL electronics or using that Mercury either...

    1. Stratman


      My fully shielded and star earthed Strat is quieter than my humbucker equipped LP when in a 'hostile environment'.

      It's easy to do. See the how to on Guitar Nuts.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Devil's advocate

    Thing is, China are doing what the "West" have done for the past few hundred years. The "West" have managed to get this high a position economically because they caused so much pollution and exploited the resources of other countries. Now, when China wants to make full use of their own resources, then they are being told off.

    1. tas

      No need to be Devil's advocate. This is actually correct

      The primary historically proven way to pull yourself up from a poor subsistence-living country to a rich economy is by export-led managed capitalism. This applies to all of today's rich countries, including Britain and the US (supposedly the homes of free trade and free market), with very few exceptions.

      Here are a couple of examples:

      - Britain, mid 18th century, moved into the then high-tech woollen manufacturing industry dominated by the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands etc) by highly aggressive use of tariff protection (high tariffs for imported woolen cloth - 45% to 55% range, low to zero tax on raw wool imports), export subsidies for cloth manufacturers, regulation that controlled the acceptable quality of manufactured goods so one bad British egg didn't kill the country's reputation, the banning of cloth exports but subsidies for raw materials from colonies. Given that Britain controlled most of the world this had significant detrimental impact on many countries economic development at the time, especially Ireland and the US.

      - US, early 19th century, using blueprints advocating the protection of infant industries from the former treasury secretary Hamilton (who also setup the government bond market and promoted the development of the banking system against fierce opposition) doubled import tariffs in manufacturing industries from 12.5% to 25%. By 1820, tariffs were raised to an average of 40% and remained the highest of any country in the world until WW1!

      China has decied enough with being the world's raw materials supplier. On a large scale, it's polluting, dangerous, low profit work that is ultimately unsustainable for itself and it's future industries if China were to continue providing 97% of the world's rapidly increasing rare earth mineral needs.

  4. Richard Jukes


    And do you think China care? They have been planning this for decades and now they are in the end phase of world domination. Long Live our Chinese Overlords!

  5. Ragarath

    Erm if they mined it

    Don't they get to say what happens to it? The WTO can't really do much can it except stamp it's feet.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    And of course....

    ...this works all ways, you know Africa and other 3rd world countries are allowed to sell goods to "developed" countries with no restrictions?

    Nope thought not.

    And if restricting supply is so wrong, how do OPEC exist? Their entire aim is to restrict production to keep prices high.

    Nope, WTO is there to look after people with power and money.

  7. Rogerborg

    China vs The World

    I know who'll blink first, and it won't be the [INSERT PRINCE PHILIP IMPRESSION OF CHINEEE FELLOW] ones.

  8. Colin Miller

    There's molybdenum in them thar hills

    Molycorp has decided, that due to China pushing up the prices of rare earths, that it is now viable to reopen its open-cast mine in California, US.

  9. Scott Earle

    Free market?

    First off, this is in theory a free market, and they can charge what they want for their Lanthanides.

    Secondly, read a little history to see how Hong Kong came to be British in the 1800s, before you talk about 'unfair practices' ...

    Finally, all countries have import/export restrictions to help their local economies.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Naughty over rare-earth exports

    The West has had contingency plan for a few years. There is a motherlode of the stuff in Afghanistan. Just need to sort out a few issues with the locals first, though.

  11. cs94njw
    Thumb Up

    Hang on, what about those Gambling companies?

    Didn't WTO rule that those gambling companies had been unfairly restricted and could therefore not pay for things from America until their costs had been met? Or something like that?

    So they do have teeth, so surprised something similar hasn't been ruled here.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    So what if the WTO doesn't have any teeth?

    China being a WTO member is what prevents the West from applying retaliatory tariffs. If China ignores WTO rules, the West will feel free to do so as well - if you piss in my cornflakes I'll do likewise.

    Saying the WTO has no power and China can do what they want is a straw man.

  13. a_been
    Paris Hilton


    WTF, so the WTO is now saying you must allow exports of the stuff you produce, what you have a famine, well fuck you! Of course this will be droped the moment the Chinese *cougth* and mention "F-22", "Nimitz class" and "since we have over a trillion $, how much do you pay for one of each, with source code".

    Paris cos, well since I mentioned "Nimitz class" and in the interest of full disclosure, I have some semen I'd be willing to trade with her.

  14. Johan Bastiaansen

    Rare-earth indeed

    That all of it ended up in Chinese soil.

    Or perhaps the rest of the world doesn't want to extract them because that process is so poluting and dangerous. But when the Chinese take the risk (probably because these regimes can stand to lose a few civilians), all of a sudden we want our fair share?

    I don't tink so. Posession is nine tenths of the law.

  15. Antoine Dubuc

    I am in China

    My wife is Chinese, and we're living in China, Hebei province more specifically.

    I've been coming here with the kids and wife for the last six years and I never heard or saw any governments doing that much for their people. They've been like mad squirrels or green giants, something odd and awe inspiring in their epic constructions of hospitals, roads, maglev trains, schools, condo buildings (usually 3 rows by 6 ), etc.

    What's really, really pitiful from someone who knows both worlds is how North America and Europe will desperately grasp onto their sole and only straw: ...but they're run by dictators, they're reds, you can't piss on the governement there...

    From the bottom of my heart, being here and living like a local: give me a fuc%%g break.

    People here are quite happy with their government, and I'm talking 99% of the people. Last year in the city I live in the reporters mentionned on tv that there weren't enough parks. A week later you see government folks asking around. Six month later, one of the biggest shopping center gets razed, and a new park built. To the owner of the park, fair compensation (yes, quite fair they make sure of that they can afford it too), and begone. Less than a year later, awesome huge park. Now they're planning them in city growth. Shit gets done here. That's the prime quality of their dictator like government, and the people are happy with the results. Shit gets done quickly and keep the people happy. This isn't some primitive backwater african dictatorship: these guys were had rule of law when we were huddled in huts around a chieftain. Now let me know how that scenario pans out in any city with over 5 million people anywhere in Europe or North America....

    Compare this with India and their democracy: what a joke: nothing ever gets done there.

    Yeah, its a dictatorship at the top, but guess what: it fuc$ng works. they're happy, rich and taking over the world. And if the WTO wants to keep them enslaved and polluted, fu%k them I say, along with the other resounding 1.4 billion people here.

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      @Antione: You are doing it wrong.

      You've indirectly stated the problem with human rights issues. It's how 100% of the population get treated that matters. The 1% who legitimately protest are the people who need protecting.

      In any event if 99% of the people are happy with a government, then it should have no problems facing a challenge in free and fair elections, should it?

      That's not to say the so called 'Free and Democratic' west does not have its issues.

      Actually China has made giant strides and certainly has improved its treatment of individuals on the back of its material gains, and I agree that is not recognised enough, but that is not to say that the world outside should not continually push for more improvement.

      1. Antoine Dubuc

        No, you're wrong.


        Your stance is the typical intellectual stance given in Europe and North America and it is inherently and demonstratively (by facts just compare the two) a wishy washy, Bambi classification, unrealistic model of the world.

        Aristotle himself said that any civilization reaches its pinacle and ultimate death by the actualization of its own core principle. Guess what, this 100% freedom goal of yours gives you India, where nothing gets done since they just want to cash in now.

        In the rest of the wonderfully inneficient Democratic countries, I'll take Canada as an example since I'm from there, shit doesn't get done precisely because politicians are accountable to the people which all 100% of them have different and diametrically opposed tastes and preferences, which also means a strong stance is impossible and unpopular in almost all cases and yes, they do want to get reelected, so again, major changes are impossible. We are fu$#%ed here in our 'advanced' countries.

        We've reached our 100% freedom and guess what, Aristotle is still right, we're in declined all right. By virtue of having a government which is at the total mercy of population which no, does not mean they know any better, our governments have no balls. They can't really do shit.

        If you want to piss on the government or change it, move to one of our 'advanced' countries where nothing major is happening for the last 40 years, and where economic decline is slowly but surely returning the richness they've raped away to the 'undeveloped' countries.

        The bottom line is that if you want shit to get done by your government, you need to give the government the ability to get shit done, and Democracy etc just doesn't do that, it does the opposite as seen in our countries.

        So yeah, guess what, in China you can't piss on the government, but you can do pretty much anything you like save that. And that is far, far enough for everybody. In real life, the sheep is not worth the herd. So you know what, fu$k the 1% if it means the happiness of the rest. What kind of madman sacrifices the herd for one sheep? Take that 1% argument and go watch Bambi, you lunatic.

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      I'm in Hong Kong...

      Sure, lots of infrastructure is being built in the mainland, and the Government is doing a lot to drag the country forwards, but you forget to mention:

      i) shoddy building practices... many children died in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 because their schools collapsed on them. A few years on, schools are being rebuilt to similar inadequate "standards"

      ii) food contamination... manufacturers using melamine to boost the "protein" test results for baby's formula. Some people were prosecuted, but other contamination scandals continue to hit the headlines

      iii) The reason that (i) and (ii) continue: Corruption. When I see a high-ranking official prosecuted for corruption, I tend to think who did they piss off that could pay a bigger bribe?

      iv) The infrastructure projects are making huge profits for someone, which then feeds into (iii)

      v) Most people that try to point out (i) (ii) and (iii) get arrested

      Oh, and although China was civilised when we were huddled in huts, I'm not sure there was much rule of law. Mostly rule by the Emperor.

      China needs more openness, accountability, and rule of law, and less corruption. In other words, at the end of the 50-year transition period after 1997, China needs to be a lot more like Hong Kong. But I'm right with you on the WTO.

      1. Antoine Dubuc
        Thumb Up


        You are right, they have corruption issues. But the did kill the ones responsible for the melamine etc. They don't have yet all the industry safeguards that we have, but they are getting there fast.

  16. Pseu Donyme

    Surely this means

    ... that foreign buyers of high grade U-235 (Pu-239) from US (Russia, China, ...) must be treated the same as domestic ones.

  17. mhenriday

    «This is the rule which China has been found in violation of:

    a WTO member is not allowed to say that these people here can have this stuff but those nasty foreigners over there cannot.» Thanks for the lesson in trade regulations and international law, Tim ! Pray tell, was the US being very naughty in 2005, when the US Congress stepped in and blocked CNOOC's winning bid for Unocal ? Or in 2008, when CFIUS blocked Huawei's joint bid with Bain Capital for 3Com Corp, or this year, when the same committee blocked Huawei's acquisition of 3Leaf ? What, you had forgotten these incidents ? Rest assured that Chinese leaders, both political and economic, have not....


  18. elderlybloke

    Those naughty Chinese

    They may eventually become greedy degenerates like the Americans.

    Wait,- that means they have to become Capitalists.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021