The World Trade Organization has constituted a panel to look into China's export restrictions on rare earth minerals, Japanese media reported on Tuesday.
Japan, U.S. and the EU have filed a trade case against China last month stating that the Communist nation's restrictions violated WTO rules by keeping prices high.
China, which accounts for more than 90 percent of global rare earth mineral output, has defended its policy saying that it is aimed at protecting its resources and environment.
The WTO panel plans to issue a ruling around next summer. In January, the WTO's appeal body ruled as unfair China's limits on metal exports including rare earth.
Meanwhile, a Japanese scientist says that the country will be able to use in three years the huge rare earth metal reserves found in its deep territorial waters if extraction work is expedited.
University of Tokyo Professor Yasuhiro Kato told a symposium in Tokyo last week that the reserves found by his team last month would be highly profitable and he proposed using crude oil exploration methods and magnets to extract the metals from ocean depths efficiently.
Kato said if interested parties draft an exploration plan and start tests immediately, the metals would be available for commercial use in three years. His team located an estimated 6.8 million tons of rare earth metal deposits at a depth of 5,600 meters near Minami-torishima island in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. The deposits would be enough to meet Japan's rare earth metal consumption for more than 200 years at the current pace.
Rare earth metals are used in hybrid cars, LCD Tvs and other high-tech products.
by RTT Staff Writer
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