Wed, 14/03/2012 - 10:28
Obama, who has faced criticism from Republican rivals for not being tough enough with Beijing, has hardened his stance on Chinese trade practices as he gears up for a re-election battle. Our competitors should be on notice. They will not get away with skirting the rules," Obama said.
The rare earths dispute, which has been building for years, comes as China undergoes a political transition, with Vice President Xi Jinping poised to become the leader of the world's second-largest economy by early 2013.
The United States and Europe have clashed regularly with China over economic issues including the value of the Chinese currency. The United States is due to make a preliminary decision next week on whether to impose countervailing duties on Chinese-made solar panels, potentially adding to trade tensions.
The rare earths case is the first to be jointly filed by the European Union, the United States and Japan. Though dependent on the outside world for vast qualities of industrial components such as iron and coal, China accounts for about 97 percent of world output of the 17 rare earth metals.
"China continues to make its export restraints more restrictive, resulting in massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains for these materials throughout the global marketplace," said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.