Angela Merkel, the President of Germany, and Nursultan Nazarbayev the President of Kazakhstan, signed an agreement that strengthens the economic ties between the two nations and allows Germany access to some potential “Rare Earths.” Rare Earths are a special group of chemical elements, specifically the fifteen lanthanides, that have been vital in the production of electronic devices including cell phones and smart phones. The agreement will give Germany the right to search in Kazakhstan for these rare earths and in exchange they will provide the nation with investments for technology among things.
This $4 billion agreement contains fifty different accords and will bring the two nations closer together. Currently most rare earths are mined in China, with many technological nations such as Japan often claiming China limits supply to drive up prices. Rare earths are important for technological devices, and are a key factor in the vibrations in cell phones among things. Solar panels and hybrid cars also heavily rely on these 17 rare earth elements, and of course on Aluminum sheets as well.
What are Rare Earths
Some groups have protested the latest agreement over claims the government under Nursultan Nazarbayev violates human rights. They are seeking that the deal also require demands that certain human rights be protected, or else the deal is off. These claims come as 14 people were recently killed by the police during protests around their independence day in December. Oil workers had been protesting their working conditions and the attitudes of the police.
Nursultan Nazarbayev has already promised investigations into the police’s actions, but have stated he believes they were acting in their own self-defense. Regardless, it is hard to miss that economic cooperation between the two nations is increasing fast. Last year trade between Germany and Kazakhstan increased by 20%.
A similar agreement was also signed between Germany and Mongolia back in October. It has become clear policy of Germany, and most of the technologically advanced world, that Rare earths is a top priority. Nations are no longer wishing to be subject to China’s strict control of the valuable resource and are finding alternative sources to get them. China currently controls 90% of the rare earths, forcing nations around the world to act.
Angela Merkel believes the decision is of economic advantage and also does not present a human rights issue.