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Seems Like "The World vs China" in WTO Dispute

China facing pressure over issues such as trade and currency policy is nothing new. But it appears a united front against the economic powerhouse has been forged, at least where it concerns the exporting of "rare earth" materials.

In a terse announcement of just one sentence with no follow-up for more than a day, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced the United States, European Union and Japan have banded together in bringing a trade case against China. The case revolves around Chinese restrictions on the exporting of rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum. Manufacturers in all three areas use the resources in producing high-tech products like advanced batteries, cellular phone technologies and hybrid automotive components.

"Manufacturers need to have access to rare earth materials, which China supplies," said President Barack Obama. "Now, if China would simply let the market work on its own, we'd have no objections. But their policies currently are preventing that from happening. And they go against the very rules that China agreed to follow...We've got to take control of our energy future, and we can't let that energy industry take root in some country because they were allowed to break the rules."

The move is the latest in a series of U.S. officials and organizations turning up the rhetoric on China's business practices. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has lashed out at China several times over the last year on issues such as currency manipulation/under-valuation, which provide a significant trade advantage. Additionally, some lawmakers have been calling for tariffs in certain industries because of perceived Chinese government intervention to help their own. To wit, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, comprised of more than a half-dozen U.S.-based firms, was brought before Congress to detail its allegations that China has been offering its solar energy-product producers illegal subsidies, and that foreign companies were "dumping" products in the United States at artificially low prices, thus, undercutting producers.

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer