* Japan trade minister wants to visit China in January
* Wants to secure enough rare earth supply for Japan industry
* China has cut export quotas by 35 pct for first half of '11
* Japan imported 20,000 tonnes rare earths from China in 2010
By Risa Maeda
TOKYO, Jan 5 Japan's trade minister said he wants
to visit China this month to talk to officials there to secure
enough rare earths, after the world's biggest supplier cut export
quotas for the minerals used to make a range of high-tech
Beijing last month said it would cut its export quotas by 35
percent to 14,446 tonnes for the first half of 2011 versus a year
ago, saying it wanted to preserve ample reserves. It also
cautioned that it has not decided on the quotas for the second
half of the year.
The official China Securities Journal said later on Dec. 31
that Beijing may not announce a second rare earths export quota
in 2011. [ID:nRAREEARTH]
"I'd like to make the opportunity to talk to China," trade
minister Akihiro Ohata said at a regular news conference on
Asked when he would do so, Ohata said: "I would say as soon
as possible. In other words, I'd like to go before the regular
parliament session starts (later this month)."
China produces about 97 percent of the global supply of rare
earth minerals, which are vital to make electronics and clean
energy technology including computers, wind turbines and electric
Japanese companies have been scrambling to find alternative
suppliers of the minerals, including those in the United States,
as Beijing steadily reduces export allocations.
Ohata said he thought Japan could secure enough rare earth
minerals from China this year if Beijing sets its export quotas
for the second half of 2011 at the same level as in the first
half, around 15,000 tonnes.
Also, Chinese officials had said in a meeting on rare earths
late last year with visiting Japanese trade ministry officials
that China does not want to affect industrial activities around
the globe, Ohata said.
But Japan needs to make sure it will be able to procure as
much rare earth minerals from China as needed, he added.
"I'd like to make sure future supply of rare earths in volume
terms for the year of 2011 will not affect the industry here,"
Japan imported about 20,000 tonnes of rare earth minerals
from China last year. That was little changed from 2009 even
though China cut its annual export quotas to global users by
about 20,000 tonnes to 30,259 tonnes in 2010, Ohata said.
(Editing by Chris Gallagher)