Exaggeration and contradiction, fairly obviously, but hear me out. As various people have pointed out, the rare earths case threatened at the WTO comes at an odd time given what is happening in the real world. Rare earth mineral prices have plummeted (h/t FT colleague Ed Crooks) and supply is coming on stream from elsewhere – indeed, Molycorp, the big US producer, is gearing up to export to China.
The timing has more to do with domestic politics in the US and the fact that the US and EU just won a similar case to establish precedent. (Precedent isn’t legally binding in the WTO dispute settlement process, as it isn’t a common law-type system, but it is certainly helpful.) Read more
A worker at the Jinyuan Company's smelting workshop prepares to pour the rare earth metal Lanthanum into a mould near the town of Damao in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. REUTERS/David Gray
The US, EU and Japan teamed up today – arguably for the first time since the Cold War – to bring an unusual joint case at the World Trade Organisation against China over its export controls on rare earths. Read more
Every time a British prime minister visits Washington, he knows that he will be measured against sepia photos of previous “special relationships” between British prime ministers and US presidents: Churchill and Roosevelt, Thatcher and Reagan, Blair and Bush. So David Cameron both needs to emphasise his closeness to Barack Obama – but not lay it on too thick, lest it sound desperate or “slavish”, to use a word that Cameron once employed in opposition.
It certainly looks as if Obama is going out of his way to give Cameron face. There is the specially-arranged trip on Airforce One to go and watch a basketball game in Ohio. There is a state banquet. (The British keep having to emphasise that this is not a state visit, only the Queen does those.) There is the joint article in the Washington Post, emphasising the “essential” nature of the relationship between the UK and the US. (The word “special” is worn thin through over-use.) And there is the tribute from the American ambassador in London, who claimed in an interview, given just before the Camerons’ arrival, that President Obama’s first call in an international crisis, is to No 10 Downing Street.
So how seriously, should one take all this? Read more
By Gideon Rachman
How would a Chinese superpower treat the rest of the world? Anyone wanting to peer into the future, could start by looking back at the past – or, at least, at the official version of China’s past. The message is not reassuring. China’s schoolchildren are being taught a version of history that is strongly nationalist. The official narrative is that their country was once ruthlessly exploited by rapacious foreigners. Only a strong China can correct these historic wrongs.