Japan has partnered with the U.S. and the European Union in asking the World Trade Organization to appoint a dispute settlement panel over their conflict with China over Beijing’s restriction on exports of rare earth metals.
The three powers have already complained to the WTO in March, but they say China’s response has not been adequate.
“China’s restrictions on rare earths and other products are violating its WTO commitments and continue to significantly distort global markets to the disadvantage of our companies,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement. “We regret that we are left with no other choice but to solve this through litigation.”
The case concerns the 17 rare earth metals, as well as tungsten and molybdenum, which China virtually has a monopoly over, since it controls about 97 percent of the world’s production. The metals are used in advanced industries like defence, electronics and renewable-energy. They are essential in manufacturing products like the iPhone, wind turbines or disk drives.
“Despite the very clear WTO ruling earlier this year in the first raw materials case, Beijing has not taken steps to remove these export restrictions,” De Gucht said in the statement.
The EU, the United States and Mexico won a similar case against China in January concerning other raw materials.
After appeals are heard, the WTO process could take as long as two years to complete.