* Japan trade minister wants to visit China in January
* Wants to secure enough rare earth supply for Japan industry
* China has cut export quotas by 35 pct for first half of ‘11
* Japan imported 20,000 tonnes rare earths from China in 2010 (Adds details)
By Risa Maeda
TOKYO, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Japan’s trade minister said he wants to visit China this month to talk to officials there to secure enough rare earths, after the world’s biggest supplier cut export quotas for the minerals used to make a range of high-tech products.
Beijing last month said it would cut its export quotas by 35 percent to 14,446 tonnes for the first half of 2011 versus a year ago, saying it wanted to preserve ample reserves. It also cautioned that it has not decided on the quotas for the second half of the year.
The official China Securities Journal said later on Dec. 31 that Beijing may not announce a second rare earths export quota in 2011. [ID:nRAREEARTH]
“I’d like to make the opportunity to talk to China,” trade minister Akihiro Ohata said at a regular news conference on Wednesday.
Asked when he would do so, Ohata said: “I would say as soon as possible. In other words, I’d like to go before the regular parliament session starts (later this month).”
China produces about 97 percent of the global supply of rare earth minerals, which are vital to make electronics and clean energy technology including computers, wind turbines and electric cars.
Japanese companies have been scrambling to find alternative suppliers of the minerals, including those in the United States, as Beijing steadily reduces export allocations.
Ohata said he thought Japan could secure enough rare earth minerals from China this year if Beijing sets its export quotas for the second half of 2011 at the same level as in the first half, around 15,000 tonnes.
Also, Chinese officials had said in a meeting on rare earths late last year with visiting Japanese trade ministry officials that China does not want to affect industrial activities around the globe, Ohata said.
But Japan needs to make sure it will be able to procure as much rare earth minerals from China as needed, he added.
“I’d like to make sure future supply of rare earths in volume terms for the year of 2011 will not affect the industry here,” Ohata said.
Japan imported about 20,000 tonnes of rare earth minerals from China last year. That was little changed from 2009 even though China cut its annual export quotas to global users by about 20,000 tonnes to 30,259 tonnes in 2010, Ohata said. (Editing by Chris Gallagher)