Briefing: US plans in place following China threats to cut off rare earth supply

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US moves to reduce reliance on Chinese rare earths exports after Beijing threatens to cut supplies – South China Morning Post

What happened: The US government will take “unprecedented” action to ensure its supply of rare earths, minerals that are overlooked but critical for modern life, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday. The US government published a 50-page report outlining a strategy to reduce its reliance on rare earth exports from China. State-owned media agencies including the People’s Daily and Global Times have published a number of stories and commentary on rare earth exports following the collapse of trade negotiations between the two countries, largely interpreted by western media as a warning to the US.

Why important: Rare earths are a set of 17 elements on the bottom of the periodic table, essential in electronic device, vehicle and military defense manufacturing as well as fuel refinement. The US imported around 59% of its rare earths from China in 2018, according to the US International Trade Commission. However, rare earths aren’t as hard to come by as the term signals, but its refining process is costly and generates pollution.  The latest US report follows months of intense negotiations between the two countries which fell apart amid finger-pointing and now, higher tariffs on billions of dollars of exports.