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Trade war

History offers lessons in escaping China's rare-earth dominance

Industry response to earlier export cutoff can show policymakers how to react

China accounts for around 70% to 80% of the world's production of rare-earth ores.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Chinese exports of rare-earth metals are once again a subject of international scrutiny, nearly ten years after the country last restricted shipments. In its report on securing access to the chemical elements, the U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled a policy aimed at increasing domestic production of these resources, some of which are used in sophisticated products, such as high-performance magnets.

The move comes as China has started making noises about restricting rare-earth exports amid escalating trade friction with the U.S. China accounts for much of the world's output of these metals. In thinking of ways to ease the impact of any Chinese moves to throttle exports, it is useful to look at the steps Japan took after it suffered its own supply shock in 2010.

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