March 13, 2012
[Paraphrasing] China controls most of the mining and processing of rare earths--95%. Rare earths are critical for modern electronics used in industrial production and the military.
The US is trying to leverage the World Trade Organization to force China to increase exports. China has threatened for some time to halt all exports of rare earths.
The WTO technically allows export quotas on natural resources, but trade lawyers say "China's export caps on rare earth minerals violate the spirit of those rules." (A8).
Majia here: Mining and processing rare earths are environmentally hazardous. I am not sure how one country can compel another country's production of a product given known, significant hazards.
Here is a good background article on the rare earths dilemma:
The Rare Earth Dilemma: China's Rare Earth Environmental Safety Nightmare.
The rare earths dilemma illustrates the cage produced by our technological innovations. We are governed by the machines that we build.
Is it possible to build machines that do not rape the earth and poison our children?