As the trade dispute between the US and China escalates, it is increasingly likely that China will use its near-monopoly in the global supply of strategic rare earths as leverage over the coming months, says Fitch Solutions Macro Research, a unit of Fitch Group.
China currently holds a near-monopoly on the global supply of rare earth metals, with over 72% of global market share.
The US is highly dependent on Chinese imports to satisfy its demand for rare earth metals, with China having supplied up to 80% of the rare earths imported by the US between 2014 and 2017.
Based on historical precedence, Fitch believes the Chinese government will impose some form of restriction on rare earth exports to the US, unless there is sudden de-escalation on trade tensions, which Fitch Solutions believes is unlikely.
Over the longer term, it is expected that the US is unlikely to be significantly harmed by any potential Chinese restrictions on exports owing to the abundance of rare earth deposits globally, which will allow the US to build alternative supply chains.
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