WTO rules against China on minerals

The World Trade Organization's appellate body ruled today that China's restrictions on the export of certain key minerals was illegal:

The World Trade Organization on Monday upheld its ruling that Chinese restrictions on key raw material exports broke trade rules following an appeal by Beijing.

China must bring its duty and export quota measures on elements including magnesium and zinc into line with its WTO obligations, an appeal body said.

The WTO found in favour of the United States, European Union and Mexico in July following a complaint that China had failed to meet the promises it made when joining the body.

U.S. trade officials--who have made targeting Chinese trade practices a focus of their work-- immediately celebrated the ruling:

The Obama Administration will continue to ensure that China and every other country play by the rules so that U.S. workers and companies can compete and succeed on a level playing field. During his State of the Union Address last week, the President laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built with the renewed strength of American manufacturing. Today’s decision ensures that core manufacturing industries in this country can get the materials they need to produce and compete on a level playing field.

China, for its part, "deeply regrets" the ruling but pledged to abide by it.

Correction: The original post has been modified to reflect that fact that the WTO decision was not on the 'rare earth' minerals, but others. The decision does have clear ramifications for the rare earths dispute however.

The Multilateralist

What Greece means for Portugal

There's still no deal on Greek debt, but investors are nervous, quite reasonably, that any loss inflicted on private-sector holders of Greek debt will soon be replicated in the case of Portugal. Via Bloomberg:

The Greek debt swap negotiations that may produce relief for Athens are fueling concerns in Lisbon where an agreement would make it more likely Portuguese investors would be next in line to accept a loss.

European leaders have said a Greek accord where investors take a 50 percent writedown in the face value of their bonds is unique and won’t be applied to other nations struggling to tame rising debts. Holders of Portuguese securities are skeptical, with the yield on the nation’s 10-year bonds rising today to a euro-era record of 15.78 percent.

“Portugal’s debt and lack of growth is very similar to Greece,” Yannick Naud, who manages $150 million at Glendevon King Asset Management, said in a Jan. 23 interview in London. “Its bonds are falling because it’s very obvious to everyone that if there’s a haircut for Greece, there might well be a haircut for Portugal too.”