39 of the 46 critical raw materials must be imported

Germany is significantly more dependent on critical raw materials than was previously known. This is apparent from a study commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology and made available to the Tagesspiegel. According to this article, Germany must import 39 of the 46 strategically relevant raw materials.

Above all, the growing reliance on China is worrying that the country “already occupies a strong dominant position,” according to the analysis. In fact, China is the world’s largest producer of 23 out of 46 commodities. Germany, for example, gets more than 90 percent of its rare earths from the Middle Kingdom – an element necessary for the production of smartphones, notebooks or electric motors.

The federal government is sounding the alarm in response to the report. “In order for the energy transition and the climate-neutral transformation of the economy to succeed, we need long-term access to critical raw materials,” said Franziska Brantner (Greens), the responsible State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. , the daily mirror. “The pressure to act is great,” Brantner continues: “The international race for raw materials is in full swing and Germany must not be left behind.”

The international race for raw materials is in full swing and Germany must not be left behind.

Franziska Brantner, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Affairs

Experts have long criticized the dependencies on raw materials. “More efforts need to be made to diversify source countries more,” said Lisandra Flach, head of the ifo Center for Foreign Trade.

Many critical raw materials are required for the production of solar systems, wind turbines or battery technology. Brantner, who is accompanying Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) this weekend on his trip to Asia for talks on commodities, now wants to develop a more active government commodities policy. The current research provides groundbreaking information on this.

For example, commodity prices for countries with active commodity policies such as South Korea or Japan have consistently been below European commodity prices over the past decade. For example, in Japan and South Korea, there are state commodities agencies engaged in the procurement and exploration of commodities. In addition, there is a large stock of raw materials, which companies can fall back on in case of bottlenecks or high price phases.

Franziska Brantner coordinates the federal government’s raw materials policy.
© Photo: Imago Images/Photothek/Thomas Trutschel

The Asian model could serve as an example for the government. “An active raw materials policy benefits companies because they can get cheaper access to raw materials,” says Brantner. They now want to work out key points for the commodities sector. “We will also develop concepts for warehousing and a commodities fund,” said Brantner. This is being discussed with the European partners within the framework of the Raw Materials Act.

The opposition is ambivalent about stronger state activity. The CDU considers a state commodities company conceivable. “Such an instrument is suitable to better support companies with much-needed direct access to raw materials,” CDU raw materials expert Stefan Rouenhoff told de Tagesspiegel.

However, when it comes to warehousing, the state should not interfere, but should make the expansion of reserves more attractive from a tax point of view. “Companies themselves know best which raw materials they need for their production,” says Rouenhoff.

Company representatives reacted skeptically in view of a possible change of course in the traffic light in commodities policy. A commodities company following the Japanese model would face very complicated procurement and distribution problems. “The Japanese model of a state commodities agency could not be transferred to Germany, where the economy is dominated by medium-sized companies,” said Matthias Wachter, head of the International Cooperation, Security and Raw Materials Department of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Storage makes sense, but must be organized by the companies themselves.

The BDI also sees a lot of potential in the circular economy, the recycling percentages for critical raw materials are still far too low. “We should not only rely on imports, but also promote domestic extraction of raw materials,” Wachter told Tagesspiegel.

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