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Trade

Access to Raw Materials (Raw Materials Initiative)

In 2008, the European Union published its raw materials initiative to respond to the different challenges related to access to raw materials. This initiative called for trade and regulatory policy to improve access by:

  1. Promoting new rules and agreements on sustainable access to raw materials and ensure compliance of international commitments at the bilateral and multilateral level
  2. Working towards eliminating trade distorting measures taken by third countries in all areas relevant to access to raw materials, using all mechanisms and instruments at its disposal, including enforcement through dispute settlement, and increased use of the trade barriers regulation and trade defence instruments
  3. Pursuing a raw materials diplomacy, using policy dialogues with third partner countries, emerging economies and their regional groupings.

Following a review period, the raw materials initiative was revised by a Commission communication entitled: ‘tackling the challenges in commodity markets and on raw materials’. This communication contained a number of additional elements as well as a reference to critical raw materials. In particular, the communication outlined a number of improvements to reinforce the EU’s raw materials strategy by:

  1. Further embedding raw materials issues, such as export restrictions, in ongoing and future EU trade negotiations at all levels
  2. Pursuing the establishment of a monitoring mechanism for export restrictions that hamper the sustainable supply, and to tackle barriers distorting the raw materials or downstream markets with dialogue as a preferred approach, but using dispute settlement where justified
  3. Continuing to develop bilateral thematic raw materials dialogues with all relevant partners, as a policy tool, and carry out further studies to provide a better understanding of the impact of export restrictions on raw materials markets. Through this diplomacy, the EU is actively seeking to secure access to raw materials, in particular the critical ones.

(Source: European Commission)


Trade Diplomacy

As outlined in the European Commission’s Raw Materials Initiative, the EU has committed to pursuing Raw Materials Diplomacy by reaching out to non-EU countries through strategic partnerships and policy dialogues. Currently the EU has developed relations with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Greenland, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, the United States, Uruguay, the EuroMed countries and the African Union.

Policy dialogues in particular are used to discuss raw materials production, trade and recycling, as well as to tackle the criticality of raw materials. The United States, Japan and the EU have a trilateral dialogue to promote cooperation in critical materials, with the aim of improving cooperation on extraction, use efficiency, and recycling of CRMs. In addition, the following areas for co-operation are regarded as a priority:

  • Critical/strategic raw materials with the aim to compare methodologies and criteria, and combine data collections
  • Geological knowledge agreed actions to compare and contrast how the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and European Geological Surveys collect, structure, and share data, and how classification systems could be made compatible with global standards (e.g. UN)
  • Eco-design, recycling, discussions with manufacturers on how to better collect and recycle, better information sharing, recycling obstacles, recycling, and substitution efforts
  • Exchange of best practices in mining policies  including technologies


Trade Defence (Anti-Dumping)

In an attempt to combat unfair trading practices and protect European producers of raw materials, the EU deploys trade defence measures, such as anti-dumping measures which are used to combat dumping of materials on the EU market. Dumping occurs when manufacturers from a non-EU country sell goods in the EU below the sales prices in their domestic market or below the cost of production. The EU will investigate anti-dumping claims where the investigation shows:

  • there is dumping by the exporting producers in the country/countries concerned
  • a material industry has been suffered by the EU industry;
  • there is a causal link between the dumping and injury found; and
  • the imposition of measures is not against the EU interest.

There are a number of anti-dumping measures on imports, including on critical raw materials like silicon metal.

(Source: European Commission)


CRM Alliance Position

In our view, the European Union should support general principles of both free and fair trade; this would include tariff and non-tariff barriers. In its assessments, the EU must ensure free and fair trade through the elimination of unnecessary or over-burdensome regulation, along with the recognition of the particular economic imbalances and the absence of a level playing field that exist in the markets of some CRMs.