China might take a targeted approach to any restrictions on rare earth elements that echoes, or effectively duplicates, the approach of the United States, which is to control exports based on "end use" and "end user" where one or both conflict with or potentially undermine U.S. national security interests (which include technological leadership and economic security).
Now that the Trump Administration has declared a policy to reduce dependency on foreign sources for critical minerals, how will the Administration go about achieving its stated objective? What legal consequences—including in the areas of national security, trade, anti-corruption, and environmental law—might flow? Our multi-disciplinary panel will discuss the science and practical importance of “critical minerals,” recent and potential U.S. legal and policy developments, and the potential impacts of U.S. actions on minerals on manufacturing, supply chains, and the markets.
Measures to curb foreign access to U.S. technology have taken and will likely take various forms that will cut across industries and legal disciplines. Among them, as discussed below, are restrictions on foreign access to and influence on U.S. technology through (1) foreign investment, (2) supply chain exclusions, (3) limits on participation in academic and other research, (4) legal or political curbs on U.S. technology access or transfers through third countries, and (5) countermeasures against foreign control of raw materials essential to technological manufacturing and innovation.
Against the Trump Administration's ideological backdrop, a range of conventional and unconventional trade, economic and other measures have been and likely will continue to be taken on "national security" grounds, including domestically. These include measures to increase domestic production of "critical minerals" (among them rare earth elements)--essential to the production of consumer electronics, electric vehicles, defense articles, medical devices, and other manufactured articles. Such actions can be seen on the horizon, if one connects the dots between national security authorities under trade laws, the Administration’s stated goals and actions favoring increased domestic mining of critical minerals, and environmental laws that contain national security/national defense exceptions and are viewed by the Administration and extractives industry interests as prohibitive to domestic production of critical minerals and commercially viable terms.
MassPoint takes a strategic and contextual approach to critical resources law, policy and risk. The Firm works with critical resources suppliers, consumers and investors to manage legal and policy complexity in supply chains and transactions.
At this point, one or few reported new incidents of cobalt (or other critical minerals) thefts/security risks are insufficient to make any reasonable predictions as to what action would be reasonable. However, news of such incidents should be closely monitored by suppliers/exporters, buyers/importers, finance intermediaries, and logistics services providers. Related storage, transit and insurance practices and terms should be noted for review if and when circumstances appear to warrant such action.
Thinking beyond the parameters of standard "international development" and industry playbooks, the lack of progress (or, in some cases, regression) in developing Afghanistan's mining sector should induce interested government, industry and nongovernmental actors to consider if and how laws, policies and technical assistance can be formulated, modified and implemented in ways that might enhance their effectiveness in practice, rather than just on paper. Afghanistan, as is well known, is a Muslim majority nation in which Islamic law (as locally interpreted and implemented formally and informally) plays a significant role. Islamic law (Shari'ah), provides rules and precedents applicable not only to family matters and ritual worship, but also to business transactions, public governance, market regulation, and limitations on government dominion over private property. in these areas, and others, Islamic law and historical practices provide rules and precedents applicable to the regulation, administration and conduct of mining and other extractives businesses. These laws and precedents are just as robust, and more so in some cases, as international and foreign laws and standards.