China announced on Tuesday it will cut its export quotas for rare earth minerals by more than 11 percent in the first half of 2011, further shrinking supplies of metals needed to make a range of high-tech products after Beijing slashed quotas for 2010.
China produces about 97 percent of rare earth elements, used worldwide in high-technology, clean energy and other products that exploit their special properties for magnetism, luminescence and strength.
The rare earth issue may further strain relations between China and the United States, which have been battered this year by arguments over everything from Tibet and Taiwan to the value of the Chinese currency. Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to visit the United States next month.
Last week, the trade representative’s office said China had refused U.S. requests to end export restraints on rare earths, and that the United States could complain to the World Trade Organization, which judges international trade disputes.