China's measures to control rare earth exports are geared to "sustainable" exploitation of the minerals, Premier Wen Jiabao said in Europe, while pledging not to impose a complete ban on exports.
China has gradually reduced export quotas for rare earths as part of an effort to keep more of the minerals for domestic industry, a policy that has raised alarm among nations with industries that depend on them for high-tech and military applications.
Most rare earth resources are in China, but news of the restrictions has helped fuel financing for new rare earth mines elsewhere in the world.
Wen called for proper control and regulations but said that China would not close the market altogether, according to a Xinhua news agency report late on Wednesday (6 October).
"What we pursue is to satisfy not only the domestic demand but also the global demand of rare earth. We should not only stand from the present, but should also look forward to the future," Xinhua quoted Wen as telling the sixth China-EU Business Summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
"If the rare earth minerals were used up, how would the world and China deal with the problem?"
Since 2005, China has imposed a diminution of export quotas on a number of rare metals and is planning a full export ban as of 2015 (EurActiv 09/06/10).
European leaders at the summit pressed Wen on the value of the Chinese currency, and trade and investment concerns including the rare earth export controls, technology theft, counterfeiting and discrimination against foreign firms.
Wen arrived in Italy late on Wednesday, and will meet with Italian leaders on Thursday before travelling to Turkey.
(EurActiv with Reuters.)