BRUSSELS -- The European Union was disappointed at Beijing's new quota on rare earth material, which are crucial to making batteries for hybrids and electric cars. The quota, announced on Thursday, did not change amounts allowed for export to Europe, the EU's trade spokesman said.
"A first analysis of China's rare earth quota ... shows that there is no noticeable change in the annual amount of rare earth China will allow to be exported to the EU," EU trade spokesman John Clancy said in a statement.
In fact China had added ferro-alloys to the quota, he said, which in practical terms results in a tightening of the limits.
"This is highly disappointing and the EU continues to encourage the Chinese authorities to revisit their export restrictions policy to ensure there is full, fair, predictable and non-discriminatory access to rare earth supplies as well as other raw materials for EU industries," Clancy said.
China issued a batch of quotas on Thursday for exports of rare earths this year -- during a visit to Beijing by the EU's trade negotiator, and just a week after the World Trade Organization ruled against its curbs on a different mix of raw materials.
The WTO's ruling that China had breached trade law by limiting foreign sales of eight raw materials led Europe and the United States to say that meant Beijing should also be forced to increase exports of 17 rare earths.
China accounts for some 97 percent of global output of rare earth minerals crucial to global electronics, defence and renewable energy industries, and its export quotas have choked off global supplies, boosted prices and angered China's trading partners.
Peter Tyroller, the board member in charge of sales and marketing at Robert Bosch GmbH, told the Automotive News Europe Congress last month that he is concerned about the price of rare earth materials.
To cope with the unpredictability of raw materials price increases, Bosch is striving to be more agile.
"We need to prepare our companies to better overcome crises in the future by probably reducing break-even points to get more flexibility," Tyroller said.
Source: Reuters with contributions from Douglas A. Bolduc