(Reuters) – China has agreed to buy two types of rare earth metals from the United States as part of an initial trade deal inked on Wednesday, a move likely to boost U.S. production of the strategic minerals.
The agreement, signed in Washington by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. President Donald Trump, gives China two years to ramp up purchases of hundreds of U.S. products, including scandium and yttrium, two of the 17 rare earths commonly used in lighting and computers.
It was a surprising about-face for China, whose status as the top global producer of the specialized minerals used to make electronics, military weapons and other high-tech equipment was seen as giving it leverage in its trade war with Washington.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a rare earths facility last May, a step widely interpreted as threatening exports to the United States, which are at their lowest level since 2015.
The trade agreement does not involve neodymium or praseodymium, the two most commonly used types of rare earths. China dominates their production, as well as the manufacture of rare earths magnets.