China must ensure free and fair access to rare earth minerals after the World Trade Organization ruled against export restrictions, a European official said.
At least 95 percent of the rare earth minerals on the world market come from China though Beijing has steadily cut back on exports in recent years. The United States, European Union and Mexico filed a suit with the WTO in 2009 about the restrictions and this week, the WTO found Beijing was in violation of international trade law.
EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht said the WTO ruling levels the playing field for raw materials.
"I expect that China will now bring its export regime in line with international rules," the commissioner said in a statement. "Furthermore, in the light of this result China should ensure free and fair access to rare earth supplies."
The U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources found that mineral production is a key economic driver, describing metals and minerals as essential from everything from agriculture to renewable energy.
Beijing said it imposed export restrictions because of environmental concerns. The WTO found that China didn't have any evidence to support its claims, however.
"The EU supports and encourages efforts to promote a cleaner and sustainable production of raw materials," the bloc said in a statement. "However, the EU believes that export restrictions cannot and do not contribute to this aim."