China raises annual rare earth output quotas to record high

A front loader shifts soil containing rare earth minerals to be loaded at a port in Lianyungang, in east China's Jiangsu province, for export. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

China raises annual rare earth output quotas to record high

  • Annual quotas for 2019 are highest volumes ever allocated
  • Beijing had raised prospect of limiting supply in US trade row

BEIJING: China lifted its annual rare earth output quotas on Friday by 10% to record-high levels for 2019, potentially easing fears the world’s dominant producer of the group of 17 prized minerals will restrict supply.
Beijing in late May raised the prospect of weaponizing its control of rare earths, used in everything from consumer electronics to sophisticated military equipment, in its trade war with the United States but has yet to announce any formal restrictions.
China is home to at least 85% of global rare earth processing capacity, according to Adamas Intelligence.
The full-year rare earth mining quota has been set at 132,000 tons for 2019 and the smelting and separation quota at 127,000 tons, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement.
The quotas, up from 120,000 tons and 115,000 tons, respectively, in 2018, are the “highest volume ever allocated” David Merriman, a London-based manager at commodity research firm Roskill, said in an email.
China has now increased the allowances for two years in a row and an official at the Association of China Rare Earth Industry confirmed the numbers were record highs.
They imply a quota of 72,000 tons for mining in the second half of 2019, up more than 54% from an unusually low level a year earlier.
For smelting and separation, or the processing of ore into material manufacturers can use, the second half quota is 69,500 tons.
The quota hikes could be seen as a message that China has “the capability to increase supply, making life difficult for (rare earths) under development in regions such as the Americas, EU and Australia,” Roskill’s Merriman said.
But it likely “has much more to do with the domestic Chinese supply-chain situation,” he added, noting that China had been increasingly looking overseas for feedstock amid an environmental crackdown at home.
The move will allow state-run miners and processors to “legally maintain market share,” Merriman said.
China typically issues the rare earth quotas twice a year for six-month periods. In March, the first-half quotas were set at 60,000 tons for mining and 57,500 tons for smelting and separation.
The late release of the full-year quotas comes as Beijing and Washington work to iron out the details on a so-called “phase one” deal to end trade hostilities.
China’s rare earth exports in October rose by 1.9% from the previous month to 3,639 tons, according to customs data released earlier on Friday.


Saudi imports from China up 17.8 percent in 2020 to $28.1 billion

Updated 24 January 2021

Saudi imports from China up 17.8 percent in 2020 to $28.1 billion

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries remains steady amid the ongoing global health crisis

RIYADH:  Saudi imports from China rose 17.8 percent year-on- year in 2020 to $28.1 billion, according to a report from Mubasher, citing figures from China Customs.

Despite this increase, the Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with China was down 63.9 percent last year to $6.2 billion, the report said.

Trading between the two nations has remained steady.
On Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported that Chinese govern- ment data showed the Kingdom was still the world’s biggest oil exporter, as well as beating Russia to keep its ranking as China’s top crude supplier in 2020.

Oil demand in China, the world’s top oil importer, remained strong last year despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Chinese imports rose 7.3 percent to a record 542.4 million tons, or 10.85 million barrels per day (bpd).

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Saudi shipments to China in 2020 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 84.92 million tons.
  • The Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with China was down 63.9 percent last year to $6.2 billion.
  • In 2020, China became the GCC’s top trading partner, replacing the EU for the first time

Saudi shipments to China in 2020 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 84.92 million tons, or about 1.69 million bpd, data from the General Administration of Chinese Customs showed.

Political commentator Zaid M. Belbagi wrote in an Arab News opinion piece that, with the increased importance of land and sea routes connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, China increasingly saw relations with the Arab world as “central” to its geostrategic ambitions.

“There is, however, a disconnect between the expansion of Chinese involvement in the region across the political and economic realms and the cultural and diplomatic connectivity required to deepen ties that will not only ensure Chinese interests, but also encourage Arab states to partake in the new world China is building in its own image,” he said.

Saudi-China relations have strengthened over the years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ties were further strengthened with the two countries offering each other assistance and staunch support.

The past three years have marked a rapid increase in Saudi- China links. King Salman visited the country as part of a six-country Asian tour early in 2017, setting the seal on a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two
countries when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A joint high-level committee was established to guide future economic development strategy.

That was followed by a later visit by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, adding greater depth to the relationship and further aligning the two countries’ main economic development plans — the Belt and Road Initiative by which China seeks to play a leading role in regional development, and the Vision 2030 strategy aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia away from oil dependency.

China has also become the top export destination of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petrochemicals and chemicals, accounting for about 25 percent of GCC exports.


At $180 billion, the GCC (GCC) trade with China accounts for over 11 percent of the bloc’s overall trade. In 2020, China became the GCC’s top trading partner, replacing the EU for the first time.

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