In yet another indication that increasing demand and supply chain challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and war in Ukraine have raised the geopolitical stakes, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken explicitly referenced critical minerals and the United over-reliance on China both in terms of mining and processing in a speech outlining U.S. policy principles towards Beijing at George Washington University at the end of May.
Calling China “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order,” Blinken said: “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” adding that “Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years.”
While stressing that the United States is “not looking for conflict or a new Cold War,” Blinken summed up the Biden Administration’s strategy as “invest, align, compete,” and said:
“We will invest in the foundations of our strength here at home – our competitiveness, our innovation, our democracy.
We will align our efforts with our network of allies and partners, acting with common purpose and in common cause.
And harnessing these two key assets, we’ll compete with China to defend our interests and build our vision for the future.”
One key area of competition, as followers of ARPN well know, lies in China’s supply chain advantage, which it has assumed via a long-term strategy and “economic manipulations,” in key sectors of the economy like the steel, solar and electric vehicle battery segments.
Stressing that these are “key sectors of the 21st century economy that we cannot allow to become completely dependent on China,” Blinken said:
“Economic manipulations like these have cost American workers millions of jobs. And they’ve harmed the workers and firms of countries around the world. We will push back on market-distorting policies and practices, like subsidies and market access barriers, which China’s government has used for years to gain competitive advantage.
We’ll boost supply chain security and resilience by reshoring production or sourcing materials from other countries in sensitive sectors like pharmaceuticals and critical minerals, so that we’re not dependent on any one supplier.”
Blinken’s statement and direct reference of our nation’s critical mineral woes are encouraging, and there are indications that the Administration is willing to work with Congress to take steps towards achieving greater critical mineral resource independence.
But ultimately, we know that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Those familiar with the inner-workings of Washington, D.C. know all too well that particularly in an election year policy efforts can quickly lose steam or fizzle over attempts to placate certain constituencies. Against all affirmations to strengthen domestic supply chains, the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) sentiment is still strong.
However, in the long run, and with the stakes as high as they are today, a comprehensive “all-of-the-above” approach to mineral resource security, from mine to manufacturing and across all segments of the value chain, is the only way to, in Blinken’s words, “bet on ourselves and win the competition for the future.”