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Why Asia weaponized rare earths, soybeans and palm oil in 2019

Resource nationalism took hold amid trade war tensions and environmental risks

Prices for rare earths like Neodymium surged in the middle of 2019 as importers feared China would take the crucial elements hostage.   © Reuters

TOKYO/SHANGHAI -- As China and the U.S. exchanged trade war salvos in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a rare-earth magnet factory in the southeastern province of Jiangxi. His message was clear: China, which accounts for nearly 90% of the world's rare earths production, would have no compunction about taking the crucial elements hostage.

Commodities reflect what is happening in the world. This year in Asia they echoed the U.S.-China trade war, the Hong Kong protests, global warming and deteriorating relations between nations. They also augured what is in store for 2020.

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