Japan plans to file an official complaint against China with the World Trade Organization as early as June over Beijing's restrictions on exports of rare earth elements, sources said.
The United States and Europe are expected to file similar complaints against China around the same time.
Representatives of Tokyo and Beijing held consultations in Geneva on April 25-26, but they failed to come to terms over the rare earth metals, which are crucial in the production of high-tech products, such as electric vehicles.
The consultations are an obligatory procedure before the issue is taken up by a WTO examination panel, which is tantamount to a court trial.
Such consultations are typically held between two countries, but the latest talks were also attended by representatives of the United States and Europe. Representatives of Canada, which is interested in developments concerning the rare earths, also attended the consultations with Chinese delegates.
Tokyo, Washington and Brussels not only called for an abolition of Beijing’s export regulations but also raised questions about the rare earth prices for foreign buyers that are significantly higher than those for Chinese purchasers.
China, which produces 90 percent of the world’s rare earth metals, refused to concede, arguing that the export regulations are needed to protect the environment.
Tokyo, Washington and Brussels concluded that China was not likely to make concessions ahead of the National Congress of the Communist Party in autumn, where the highest echelons of Beijing's leadership will be replaced. They decided instead to ask the WTO to appoint a panel.
An official complaint will be followed by panel meetings, the equivalent of a court of first instance. The disputing parties can appeal to an appellate body, which amounts to a court of second instance.
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