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WTO rare earth ruling is unfair

2014-03-31 16:55 Xinhua Web Editor: qindexing

One with justice on his side doesn't always win. This is again the case for the World Trade Organization's (WTO) rare earth ruling last week.

The ruling against China's regulation of its rare earth exports has sparked disappointment and dissatisfaction among the Chinese public, as they hold China has been unfairly treated.

Although the decision was made in accordance with "established rules," it doesn't mean that the ruling was reasonable.

On the one hand, Western countries, equipped with the world's most sophisticated export restriction systems, can, without breaking any rules, restrict exports of high-tech products such as precision machinery and semiconductors, particularly, to China.

On the other, it is against the so-called "rules" for China to manage its exports of rare earth. China does so not to target specific countries, but out of the need to curb environmental disasters caused by excessive mining.

Isn't this inscrutable or double standards?

Yes, precision machinery, semiconductors and the like are high-tech products. But rare earth is just the kind of commodity most sought after and widely used in high-tech sectors.

They say they prohibit exports of those high-tech products to China because they can be used for military purposes. But rare earth is just the kind of key element widely used in military sectors.

The ruling was made based on rules, but rules should have kept up with the times. For new members of the WTO such as China, many of the old rules masterminded by developed economies are not fair in the first place.

WTO officials are also advised to come to China and have a look at the enormous damage excessive rare earth mining has inflicted on the environment.

China has long been a victim of excessive rare earth mining and has only started to resolve the problems recently.

For decades, China, with about 23 percent of the world's total rare earth reserves, has been feeding more than 90 percent of the world's demand for the metals.

China's domination of the global rare earth market is an unwanted gift from some developed countries led by the United States.

The United States, with one of the world's largest rare earth reserves, dominated this market from the mid 1960s to late 1980s, and then started to gradually close down mines, citing huge environmental and resource costs.

This dominating status came at a huge price -- in some small towns in east China's Jiangxi Province, where reserves of precious ion-absorbed-type rare earths abound, lavish exploitation of the metals since the late 1980s has not only destroyed local landscapes, but also poisoned streams and crops.

After comparing the environmental disasters caused by rare earth mining in China and the natural sceneries above rare earth reserves in the United States, the WTO would be able to give a fair verdict.

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