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Reducing the EU’s dependence on chinese imports of rare earths and other strategic minerals

This article is taken from the report Building Europe’s Strategic Autonomy vis-à-vis China published in December 2021 by the EU-China Working Group.

New technologies consume a significant amount of rare earths and other strategic minerals, which are almost exclusively imported from China. For thirty years, the EU, like the United States and Japan, has abandoned the production of these minerals in favour of importing them from China. This dependence on imports makes Europeans vulnerable because, in addition to the defence and space sectors, the dual digital and green transition of the European economy requires technologies that consume an ever-increasing quantity and variety of these minerals.
China, which has embarked on a race for technological leadership with the objective of self-sufficiency in production capacity, now has powerful leverage over its competitors if it decides to restrict its exports. Ensuring Europe’s strategic autonomy in a conflictual geopolitical context calls for reducing dependence while securing supplies of critical minerals through a pragmatic dialogue with China about its reliance on some European imports, particularly agricultural raw materials and foodstuffs.

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