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EU sets new rules on imports of critical materials to ease dependence on China

The European Commission on Thursday proposed new rules on imports of critical materials to ease the bloc’s dependence on China.

The EU executive body presented a legal draft to ensure “the EU’s access to a secure, diversified, affordable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials,” the EU institution said in a statement.

Critical raw materials, like cobalt, lithium, vanadium, and natural rubber, are used in strategic sectors, such as the digital, aerospace, and defense industry.

As “shortages in the aftermath of the Covid-19 and the energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” highlighted, the EU “heavily relies on imports, often from quasi-monopolistic” suppliers, the statement said.

If adopted, the proposal will significantly alter the EU’s trade with China as the bloc imports currently 98% of rare earths, 93% of magnesium, and 97% of lithium supply from the Asian country.

In order to ease this dependency, the European Commission sets targets to increase European capacities for extraction and processing, and to involve new trade partners.

Under the new rules, a single country could not import more of a given raw material than 65% of the EU’s annual consumption.

The draft also supports the EU’s climate goals and its own net zero industry by demanding that at least 15% of the EU’s annual consumption would come from recycling.

The law would also give a boost to the European mining industry by requiring them to supply at least 10% of the bloc’s demand.

The EU will also look for new trade partners, and will seek to set up a “Critical Raw Materials Club for all like-minded countries willing to strengthen global supply chains,” the European Commission said.

The proposal has yet to be adopted by EU member states and the European Parliament.

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