European worries over resource import dependence

19 Apr 2011

The EU is highly dependent on imports of raw materials for its industry. The dependency rate for minerals ranges from 48% for copper ore and 78% for nickel to 100% for materials such as cobalt, platinum and titanium.

Due to this import dependency, the EU’s raw materials strategy places particular attention on fighting export restrictions, including export taxes, bans and regulated exports. EU outrage over Chinese rare earth export quotas is just one illustration of the wider EU policy to ensure continuous supplies for European industry at competitive prices.

Rufus Yerxa, deputy director-general at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), acknowledged that export restrictions are clearly “an area of growing tension” in which new disputes are arising. Yet, WTO does not have any specific agreement to regulate trade in raw materials.

The former director-general of the European Commission’s trade department, Mogens Peter Carl, states that international negotiations represent only 10% of the total solution on access to raw materials, whereas further exploration and exploitation of new resources could offer an extra 20%. Meanwhile, “the major part of the solution – 70% – is on our own backyards,” he said, citing Europe’s complete domestic control over activities such as waste collection and recycling, waste exports and the promotion of research on substitution and recovery.

From this article by EurActiv.