China to consider strengthening controls on rare earth exports: NDRC

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China will consider strengthening controls on exports of rare earths, 17 chemical elements used in high-tech consumer electronics and military equipment, to protect and better use such “strategic resource”, the state planner said on Tuesday.

Rising tensions between the United States and China have sparked concerns that Beijing could use its dominant position as a supplier of rare earths for leverage in the trade war between the two countries.

Experts attending a meeting held by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) suggested establishing a mechanism to track and review the entire process of rare earth exports, while clamping down on illegal production and smuggling of the minerals to protect the environment.

“China should accelerate green and intelligent transformation of the rare earth sector, fully utilize its value and effectively promote the high-quality development of the resource,” NDRC said in a statement.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to a rare earths plant last month helped trigger the speculation.

China supplied 80% of the rare earths imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017.

Reporting by Meg Shen in Hong Kong and Zhang Min in Beijing, editing by Ed Osmond