Background

Import restrictions are among the options that will be considered as part of an ongoing Trump administration initiative to reduce U.S. reliance on critical minerals from foreign suppliers.

President Trump issued Sept. 30 an executive order declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat posed by the U.S.’ dependence on imports from foreign adversaries for “the critical minerals that are increasingly necessary to maintain our economic and military strength in the 21st century.” These minerals are aluminum (bauxite), antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite (natural), hafnium, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, the rare earth elements group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium. These minerals are used in the production of goods such as cell phones, computers, automobiles, airplanes, advanced electronics, manufacturing equipment, transportation systems, defense systems, and cutting-edge medical devices.

The Department of Commerce announced in June 2019 a strategy aimed at ensuring secure and reliable supplies of these minerals. The EO directs federal agencies to go further, including by taking the following steps.

- submitting within 60 days a report recommending executive actions needed to counter the United States’ “undue reliance” on critical minerals from foreign suppliers, which may include the imposition of tariffs or quotas, other import restrictions against China or “other non-market foreign adversaries whose economic practices threaten to undermine the health, growth, and resiliency of the United States,” or other appropriate actions

- reporting every six months on the state of the threat and recommending any additional actions necessary to address it

- prioritizing the expansion and protection of the domestic supply chain for minerals and the establishment of secure critical minerals supply chains that do not depend on resources or processing from foreign adversaries

- reporting within 45 days on existing and planned efforts and policy options to cooperate and coordinate with partners and allies, help allies build reliable critical mineral supply chains within their own territories, and reduce U.S. dependence on minerals produced using methods that do not adhere to responsible mining standards (e.g., by using forced labor)

- proposing within 90 days to revise or reconsider regulations as necessary to expand and protect the domestic supply chain for minerals, including the development of new supply chains and the processing, reuse, and remediation of materials already in commerce

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ST&R: International Trade Law & Policy

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