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What They’re Saying: U.S. Victory on Rare Earth Exports

“We will continue to defend American manufacturers and workers, especially when it comes to leveling the playing field and ensuring that American manufacturers can get the materials they need at a fair market price.”
– Ambassador Michael Froman

In standing up for American workers and businesses, the United States won a World Trade Organization case against China’s export restraints on rare earth products. These rare earths, which include tungsten, molybdenum, and 15 other minerals, are used in everyday products, including automobiles, cell phones, and even energy efficient light bulbs. China had established export quotas on these materials which unfairly hurt American manufacturers, since it artificially raised prices for the rest of the world but lowered prices for Chinese producers. The WTO panel found that export restrictions cannot be imposed to conserve natural resources if the domestic use of those same materials is not also restricted.

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is committed to take action whenever necessary to protect the high-quality middle class American jobs supported by trade, and this WTO panel victory shows that a level playing field is required to participate in the global trading system. The full statement by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman can be seen here, but this is what others are saying:

“This is excellent news for Ohio and American manufacturers. Manufacturing is the backbone of the American economy. But in order for our industry to compete, it needs a level playing field. That means holding countries like China accountable when they violate trade policy by hoarding rare earth and other materials. The World Trade Organization’s decision will help protect American businesses and the jobs they support.”

- Senator Sherrod Brown, (D-OH)

“Manufacturing is an important part of Ohio’s economy, and I’m pleased that the trade court has ruled against China’s blatantly discriminatory behavior that hurts Ohio workers. I will continue to strongly support efforts to ensure that Ohio workers are able to operate on a level playing field around the world.”

- Senator Rob Portman, (R-OH) 

“The World Trade Organization’s decision sends a strong message to China that its mercantilist trade restrictions on rare earth elements have no place in the 21st Century. Today’s ruling is a clear win for the United States, for rules-based trade, and for American high-tech manufacturing jobs that depend on a stable supply of these products. I intend to ensure the United States continues to make enforcing global trade rules a clear priority.”

-Senator Ron Wyden, (D-OR)

“Through the aggressive efforts of the Obama Administration, the WTO has struck down China’s efforts to block our companies from having access to key inputs.  Our high-tech industries, from smartphones to medical equipment to wind turbines, depend on access to these rare earths and other chemicals.  Holding China accountable, and enforcing the rules of international trade are vital to U.S. businesses and workers and key to trade expansion efforts.  China must get the message that our government, backed by our workers, won’t stop pressing until China abandons its penchant for promoting its domestic industries at the expense of those of its trading partners.”

- Representative Sander Levin (D-MI)

"Today's ruling is great news for American manufacturers and researchers building the next generation of advanced technologies. China clearly violated WTO rules, and I applaud the U.S. Trade Representative for taking this enforcement action against China's illegal export restrictions of these critically important raw materials. Today's victory is a reminder of how important trade enforcement is, and we need to continue cracking down on other countries' anti-competitive practices, like currency manipulation, to help American workers and businesses compete and win in the global economy."

- Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI)

“The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been aggressive and determined to confront China about its export limits on rare earth minerals and other materials.  Those products are critical ingredients in a broad range of items across the manufacturing sector where worker’s jobs depend on fair trade practices and a steady market supply.  China’s policies have had a direct impact on U.S. production and employment.”

- Leo W. Gerard, President, United Steelworkers

“This decisive ruling by the WTO confirms that China cannot impose export quotas, export taxes, and other restrictions on these raw materials. We urge China to promptly comply with the WTO’s decision and remove these trade-distortive export restrictions.”

- Alan H. Price, Partner and Chair of the International Trade Practice, Wiley Rein

"NEMA supports non-discriminatory national policies toward trade in raw materials and minerals, and we believe the WTO panel's decision is consistent with that principle. NEMA understands China's national interest in protection of its environment, but trade measures such as export quotas and export tariffs do not appear to be particularly suited to protecting the environment, while such measures do tend to support economic protectionism. We commend the efforts of the U. S. Trade Representative's Office, the Government of Japan, and the European Union in bringing this dispute to the WTO and successfully resolving it under the auspices of the WTO's dispute resolution process."

- Evan R. Gaddis, President and CEO, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)

“This WTO action is a step in the right direction, and we’re pleased USTR took the initiative in 2012 to launch a rare earth minerals case. China’s export restraints on rare earth minerals have contributed to the loss of American production and jobs, particularly in advanced technology products. These restrictions have also raised important national security concerns about a reliance on foreign suppliers for our military supply chain.  These metals are used in crucial missile guidance systems and aircraft components, and it is troubling that we are almost entirely reliant on the Chinese government for access to them. The administration must aggressively enforce existing trade laws to ensure China complies with [the] ruling while we work to expand our domestic production and processing of rare earth materials.”

- Scott Paul, President, Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM)

“This decision illustrates that China cannot continue to manipulate the global trading system by promoting its own industry to the detriment of U.S. and other global manufacturers.  These metals include critical raw materials for steelmaking, and the export restrictions clearly favor Chinese producers already dealing with a massive overcapacity in steelmaking. This is yet more proof that China deliberately evades its obligations as a WTO member.  The Chinese government knew in 2001 when it joined the WTO that it could not impose export quotas on these elements, and it did so anyway.  We are pleased to see the U.S. government working with our allies to address China’s unfair trade practices and hope that the vigorous enforcement of the global trade rules continues.” 
- Thomas J. Gibson, President and CEO, American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI)