China is preparing to defend itself should the United States and other countries take their complaint about China's rare earth export restrictions to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said Tuesday.
"We would feel sorry for their decision to complain to the WTO," Miao told Xinhua, responding to reports that the United States, along with the European Union and Japan, plans to file a trade complaint with the WTO.
"In the meantime, we are actively preparing to defend ourselves and will explain the case if they bring the complaint against us," the minister said.
The dispute concerns Chinese policies that effectively limit the rest of the world's access to rare earth from China. In order to control environmental damage and protect resources, China has suspended the issuance of new licenses for rare earth prospecting and mining, imposed production caps and export quotas, and announced tougher environmental standards for rare earth production.
Miao said some rare earth metals would last only 20 years if China does not stop excessive mining.
He stressed that China's rare earth export restriction is not against any specific country, nor is it a kind of trade protectionism.
Instead, the policy was drawn up out of concern for the environment and the sustainable use and development of resources, Miao said.
China has abundant reserves of rare earth metals, a group of 17 elements that are vital for manufacturing an array of high-tech products, including cell phones, wind turbines, electric car batteries and missiles.
China has supplied more than 90 percent of rare earth products on the global market, but its reserves only account for about one-third of the world's total. Disorderly mining of rare earths has been blamed for environmental damage in rare-earth-rich regions across China.
Miao said his ministry would, in accordance with requirements from the State Council, or China's Cabinet, work to control the rare earth industry so as to ensure its sustainable development.