This week, it was reported that China is considering cutting off U.S. access to rare earth minerals. If this happens, businesses would have great difficulty producing many things Americans rely on, and often take for granted, every day — from smartphones and medical equipment to solar panels.
U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton
Building and maintaining global trade agreements has benefitted countries for as long as international commerce has existed. It’s no secret that facilitating vital free trade agreements and promoting economic freedom provides lower cost goods and services around the world, lifts people out of poverty, and reaffirms commitments to preserve strong alliances with countries that share our democratic ideals. These trade deals, however, are only mutually beneficial when all parties involved play by the same set of rules.
For decades, China has taken advantage of the United States, particularly when it comes to intellectual property. Some estimates show that about 1 in 5 North American companies has experienced intellectual property theft from China in the last year alone. The U.S. cannot allow this type of behavior to continue. The recent and escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China could have potentially devastating consequences to the economy and should be taken seriously. There are few industries within our economy that U.S.-China trade relations don’t impact, but perhaps one such overlooked industry is that of rare earth minerals.
This week, it was reported that China is considering cutting off U.S. access to rare earth minerals. If this happens, businesses would have great difficulty producing many things Americans rely on, and often take for granted, every day — from smartphones and medical equipment to solar panels. Of the dozens of rare minerals used to manufacture these goods, nearly 50 percent are imported from China. Unfortunately, the current regulatory scheme in the United States would not allow domestic industry to make up for the loss of critical minerals that would be experienced if Chinese mineral imports suddenly stopped.
Mining has a proud legacy in Colorado and elsewhere across the country. From the gold rushes in the 1800s to the coal mines that provided power resources for over 100 years, mining was once the lifeblood for most Coloradan communities. With today’s stronger environmental protections and advanced technologies, we can make sure that this important industry is not left behind in the history books. By enacting common sense solutions and encouraging the responsible mining of important mineral resources, Colorado can continue to play an important role in reducing our dependence on China.
While few major mining-related, long-term solutions have been formally adopted or signed into law, there are several legislative proposals that have been introduced to help reduce the reliance on Chinese rare earth minerals. In the House, I have co-sponsored legislation — the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act — which would help develop a plan to responsibly extract minerals as well as reduce the time it takes for issuing permits. It’s critical that the U.S. reduce its dependency on Chinese-produced raw materials and instead empower local businesses and communities.
Simply put, the U.S. cannot sit idly by and allow China to continue to unfairly gain advantages by manipulating and cutting off access of important resources. Americans and Chinese alike will hopefully reap the benefits of a long-term trade deal, but until China changes its ways, the U.S. should find ways to reduce its dependency and stand against unfair trade practices.
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