WTO ruling revives debate over China’s rare earths trade

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China suffered another setback at the WTO yesterday, thanks to a ruling that could spell trouble for its controversial rare earths industry. In a decision issued Monday, a WTO panel determined that the Chinese government has been acting in violation of international trade rules, due to export restrictions on a number of raw materials. These restrictions, the panel said, allowed Beijing to inflate global market prices, while giving an advantage to domestic producers. As a result, China will likely have to adjust its trade policies to comply with WTO regulations. In a statement, the country’s Ministry of Commerce said it “deeply regrets” the decision, but confirmed that the People’s Republic will adhere to it. This week’s ruling applies to materials like bauxite, coke, magnesium, manganese and zinc, but, most notably, does not apply to rare earths — a group of 17 elements critical to the production of tablets, smartphones and myriad other gadgets.

China has maintained a rather tight grip over the world’s rare earths market, thanks to a slew of export controls, quotas and government-erected barriers to entry. The country has come under intense international pressure in recent years, with the US, EU and Mexico filing complaints with the WTO, arguing that China’s price-inflating restrictions violate international trade agreements. Beijing, for its part, has long maintained that its export controls are designed to minimize the environmental impact of rare earth mining, while meeting the country’s surging domestic demand. It’s an argument that’s come up a lot during this debate but one that the WTO, on Monday, deemed illegitimate, stating that China has thus far been “unable to demonstrate” the environmental benefits of its policies. The decision won’t have any immediate bearing on these policies, but some observers are hopeful that it may be a sign of things to come. Michael Silver, CEO of rare earth processor American Elements, told Reuters that the ruling “confirms the existence of the two-tiered price structure that has caused so much concern,” with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht adding that the decision should force China to remove restrictions on both the aforementioned raw materials and rare earths, alike. Others, however, aren’t so optimistic, pointing out that, with a full 95 percent of the rare earths market under its aegis, China could realistically afford to ignore any decisions handed down from the WTO in the future.

WTO ruling revives debate over China’s rare earths trade originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 10:37:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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HTC Ville gets hands-on en Francais, is presumably practicing its Spanish for MWC (video)

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HTC Ville gets hands-on en Francais, is presumably practicing its Spanish for MWC (video)

While we’re still a few weeks away from annual phone festival, MWC, it’s these weeks in the run-up that often draw out blurrycam appetizers of what we’ll see over in Barcelona. This time, it’s no other than the HTC Edge Ville, that rumored divergent mix of quad-core processing bulk and slimline form-factor: something we don’t typically see the unibody-armored HTC family. In the leaked video, you’ll be getting a look at a heavily disguised version of Ice Cream Sandwich, covered in contentious (but new!) Sense sauce. The mysterious handset mole is also kind enough to pay a visit to the phone’s specification list, confirming, at least if this is the finished article, an eight megapixel camera, 4.3-inch qHD display and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. Alas, it looks like this isn’t going to be the rumored quad-core debut from the Taiwanese phone maker, although going on past form, it won’t shock us if the company reveals a whole line-up of handsets for us to meddle with next month. Take the tour yourself — it’s right after the break.

Continue reading HTC Ville gets hands-on en Francais, is presumably practicing its Spanish for MWC (video)

HTC Ville gets hands-on en Francais, is presumably practicing its Spanish for MWC (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 10:13:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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T-Mobile brings Square to select small businesses, does the mobile payment thing

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T-Mobile is throwing some of its weight behind the mobile payment movement this morning, becoming the first carrier to offer Square credit card readers to a handful of retail outlets. Under the company’s new campaign, stores equipped with T-Mobile smartphones will be able to use Jack Dorsey’s readers to finalize transactions from the comfort of their palms. This should come in handy for cash-only businesses, in particular, as T-Mobile emphasized in its announcement today. It’s all part of the provider’s lineup of small business offerings, though not every retailer will be involved at launch. To see the full list of Squared-up outlets, check out the source link below.

Continue reading T-Mobile brings Square to select small businesses, does the mobile payment thing

T-Mobile brings Square to select small businesses, does the mobile payment thing originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 08:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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LG Optimus L3 appears in Sweden, packs entry-level style

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LG Optimus L3 appears in Sweden, packs entry-level style

It’s not every day that we come across an entry-level Android smartphone from LG, especially one that packs this much style. The LG Optimus L3 (aka E400) recently popped up on Swedish retailer CDON’s website and appears to be slotted right below the Optimus Hub (successor to the highly popular Optimus One). Specs include Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with LG’s Optimus UI, a 3.2-inch QVGA (320×240 pixels, ouch) capacitive touchscreen, a three megapixel camera, dual-band (2100 / 900MHz) HSDPA 3.6Mbps and quadband EDGE connectivity, WiFi / Bluetooth / GPS / FM radios and a microSD card slot. While there’s no word yet on what kind of processor powers the handset, we’re guessing it’s likely the same 800MHz CPU found in the Optimus Hub. Availability remains a mystery, but the Optimus L3 lists for 1290SEK (about $192) contract-free. See, style doesn’t always have to cost a fortune.

LG Optimus L3 appears in Sweden, packs entry-level style originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 07:34:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Samsung faces EU antitrust investigation over mobile patents

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Samsung’s European legal woes don’t look to be abating anytime soon, as the EU today formally launched an investigation into the Korean manufacturers’ competitive practices. At issue are, not surprisingly, a collection of patents that Samsung has used to launch a series of lawsuits against rival companies. The manufacturer maintains that these patents are essential to complying with European mobile standards, but the EU says Samsung may be in violation of a promise it made more than ten years ago. Back in 1998, the firm said it would license these essential telephonic patents to competing manufacturers, under the terms outlined in FRAND. The Commission explained the obligation and its potential ramifications in the following statement:

The Commission will investigate, in particular, whether in doing so (seeking injunctions on patent infringements in 2011) Samsung has failed to honor its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The Commission will examine whether such behavior amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

No word yet on how long the investigation may take, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated going forward.

Continue reading Samsung faces EU antitrust investigation over mobile patents

Samsung faces EU antitrust investigation over mobile patents originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 06:36:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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German court upholds ban on original Galaxy Tab 10.1

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German court upholds ban on original Galaxy Tab 10.1

While Samsung was more than willing to redesign its flagship tablet in the face of the German court’s ruling last year, the higher regional court in Dusseldorf maintains that the original still can’t be sold within its borders. As Samsung and Apple continue their legal fisticuffs worldwide, the claim from Cupertino that the 10.1-inch Android tablet is too similar to its own iPad has seen more attention than most. Samsung returned the favor by counter-suing over mobile technology patents, although it’s been just as unfortunate here, losing two out of the three infringement claims. The final case will be ruled on in early March. Today’s decision will also encompass the Galaxy Tab 8.9, although given that this ruling is based on Germany’s own unfair competition law, it makes it unlikely to be replicated elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab 10.1N remains on shelves — and very desperate tablet fans just a short drive away from neighboring countries still able to sell the original.

German court upholds ban on original Galaxy Tab 10.1 originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 04:28:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sky will launch an internet based TV service in the UK in the first half of 2012

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UK pay TV service Sky has just announced its quarterly results, and despite adding 100,000 subscribers as well as notching its “highest ever first-half adjusted operating profit” it will launch a new internet TV service, available to anyone in the country with a broadband connection. Sky describes the new over the top (OTT) service as being aimed at the 13 million UK households who don’t currently subscribe to pay TV, with access available via “PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, games console or connected TV.” Initially, it will offer Sky Movies on demand joined by sports and entertainment options later, with access based on either monthly unlimited subscription or “pay-as-you-go” pricing. As far as the company’s basic services, it will continue to develop its existing Sky Go product for standard pay-TV subscribers and zeebox iPad companion app, although this seems to initially be a worth competitor for things like Lovefilm and recent UK entrant Netflix. We have plenty of questions about what it will offer cord-cutters and cord-nevers in the UK when it launches in the first half of this year, we should find out more on the earnings call shortly. Until then, hit the PDF link for more detailed financial breakdowns, or check out the IPTV service press release after the break.

Update: Still waiting for Sky Go on Android? The company mentioned during its presentation that the app will finally arrive on Google’s platform in February. It will also have new channels, including Sky 1, Sky Living and Sky Arts, plus, of course, the new Sky Sports F1 HD channel.

Continue reading Sky will launch an internet based TV service in the UK in the first half of 2012

Sky will launch an internet based TV service in the UK in the first half of 2012 originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jan 2012 03:05:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Hat Tip To: Engadget

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