Japan, EU to Cooperate on Rare Metals to Lessen Reliance on China

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Cobalt-rich crusts in submarine sedimentary formations containing the rare metal cobalt at the Institute of Industrial Science of the University of Tokyo in Meguro Ward, Tokyo.

BRUSSELS — Japan and the European Union have decided to complement each other’s supply of rare metals and other important commodities, as part of efforts to reduce their dependence on China.

The two sides were expected to conclude a memorandum of understanding as early as Thursday, according to EU officials.

To strengthen economic security, Japan and the EU will share information on supply and demand for rare metals, which are essential for the production of electric vehicles, wind power generators and other items, and cooperate in research and development for mining and refining, according to the sources.

Their aim is to reduce their dependence on China, which is a major supplier of rare metals.

The memorandum was expected to be signed in Brussels, where the EU headquarters is located, by a specialized department of the European Commission and the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC).

The draft memorandum states that Japan and the EU will promote technical cooperation and information sharing to improve the sustainability of supply chains for critical commodities, particularly strategic minerals.

In particular, they will share information on inventories, demand forecasts and contingency plans for shortages of lithium, cobalt, nickel and other key raw materials for EV storage batteries, and cooperate on recycling and developing new technologies for these rare metals.

Japan and the EU are committed to achieving net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They currently depend on imports of rare metals from China, South America and elsewhere for most of the rare metals essential to renewable energy and other decarbonization-related technologies.

The EU, which has a policy of diversifying import sources and expanding production within the region, has been considering promoting cooperation with Japan.

JOGMEC is an independent administrative agency under the jurisdiction of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. The government guarantees the memorandum of understanding.

Japan and the EU also signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen cooperation in the field of semiconductors on Tuesday.