The recent escalation of the conflict between China and the U.S. once again highlights Europe’s dependence on imports of critical raw materials.
Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Economy and Finance, has called for Europe to become independent in the supply of gallium and germanium. For both technology metals, the main exporter China has announced export controls that are currently causing international unrest. Gallium and germanium are needed for a whole range of technologies from chip manufacturing to the production of solar cells. Le Maire wants the European Commission to add the two raw materials to the list of critical minerals for which the EU is seeking self-sufficiency, Reuters reported. It will also be examined whether these resources can be produced in France.
China’s announcement that it wants to control exports more strictly shows how dependent the European continent is on imports and the urgency of building its own supply chains, said Jean-Dominique Senard, president of carmaker Renault, in an interview with Reuters. The manager pointed out that China’s market position was the result of years of investment and Europe would face correspondingly high costs to catch up. Senard sees the EU caught in the crossfire of rising tensions between China and the United States. The export controls currently worrying European managers, he adds, are seen as a response to Washington’s efforts to cut off the People’s Republic from access to cutting-edge computer chips. If tensions escalate, Senard fears there could be further disruption to global supply chains.
Cautiously Positive News From China
For now, however, there are signs of some easing in the conflict between the two superpowers. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janes Yellen has drawn a positive conclusion after her state visit to China. The talks with Premier Li Qiang, among others, were direct, substantive, and productive. She said she made it clear on the ground that the U.S. sought healthy economic competition between the two countries and believed in a mutually beneficial economic relationship. Following Yellen’s lead, the U.S. President’s special envoy on climate, John Kerry, will possibly travel to China later this week for talks, Bloomberg (paywall) reports. The focus here will be on cooperation on climate change, but the trip, like Yellen’s visit and earlier that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, should be seen as a push to reduce tensions, according to Bloomberg.
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