WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered his Cabinet secretaries to look into the country’s reliance on rare earths in his latest bid to end China’s dominance of the industry.
The move could lead to tariffs, quotas or other possible import restrictions, according to an executive order released on Wednesday.
Trump, a trade protectionist seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 election, has wielded similar threats in previous executive orders related to the minerals.
Rare earths are an obscure group of 17 minerals used to build a range of goods including weapons and consumer electronics. There is no known substitute for them.
While the United States used to be the leading producer of the minerals, China has used its heft in the industry to its advantage in the trade dispute between the two world leaders.
Last year, Trump told the U.S. Defense Department to find better ways to procure samarium cobalt rare earth permanent magnets, which are often found in precision-guided missiles, smart bombs and military jets.
Two Republican senators have introduced separate mineral-related legislation in the past year or so that have not passed so far.
(Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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