European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium. February 1, 2023

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Why the proposed Brussels buyers club to procure critical minerals is a bad idea

Policy Briefs 23-6
Photo Credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman


Concerned about critical mineral supply chains and its own strategic vulnerabilities, the European Union is advancing a buyers club to procure minerals critical to the clean energy transition, such as bauxite, cobalt, lithium, and nickel. The European Union is deeply dependent on imports of both raw and processed critical minerals and materials and thus highly exposed to global price volatility. The door appears to be open for the United States or other EU trading partners and like-minded countries to join this club. Decarbonization is not the only impetus behind the proposed Brussels buyers club. Both the European Union and United States view China’s dominance of critical mineral supply chains as a national security issue, because these minerals are key inputs to modern military technology. Hendrix agrees that supply chains for critical minerals desperately need widening to meet projected global demand and tackle climate change mitigation, but he warns that a purchasers club would not be a step in the right direction. A buyers club would be prone to free riding, set up distributive conflicts within the European Union, and reduce the share of climate mitigation benefits accruing to critical mineral–producing countries, many of which are developing and middle-income economies.

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