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On December 20, 2017 President Trump signed a Presidential Executive Order on a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals. While the underlying intention of the order is anti-import, it provides for no specific actions that amount to restrictions on imports or discrimination against foreign mining interests.
The order states that, "It shall be the policy of the Federal Government to reduce the Nation’s vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals." Among the findings on which it is based are that, "The United States is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity," and "An increase in private‑sector domestic exploration, production, recycling, and reprocessing of critical minerals … will reduce our dependence on imports." To this end, the order provides for several actions intended to promote domestic production and stockpiling of these minerals (e.g., “streamlining leasing and permitting processes to expedite exploration, production, processing, reprocessing, recycling, and domestic refining of critical minerals”). None of these actions appear prima facie to constitute discrimination against foreign sources, however, and the order provides that, “Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect … existing treaties or international agreements relating to mineral production, imports, or exports.”
The order does not enumerate the minerals covered by the policy, but does define "critical mineral” to mean "a mineral identified by the Secretary of the Interior ... to be (i) a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, (ii) the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and (iii) that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for our economy or our national security."
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