Panel alleges nations are ‘abusing’ WTO

An advisory panel to the trade minister on Friday urged the World Trade Organization to take a stricter stance on antidumping measures to ensure a freer multilateral trading mechanism.

“Antidumping measures have been increasingly abused as a tool of protectionism,” says the “2000 Report on WTO Consistency of Trade Policies by Major Trading Partners” submitted to trade chief Takashi Fukaya.

“By strengthening disciplines over antidumping measures in the world we can bring greater security and predictability in the multilateral trading system,” the report says.

The 604-page report was drawn up by the Subcommittee on Unfair Trade and Policies and Measures under the World Trade Organization Committee of the Industrial Structure Council.

The report is the ninth the panel has issued since 1992, giving “objective and rule-oriented” analyses of the trading policies of Japan’s 12 major trading partners; it is published simultaneously with the U.S. NTE report.

It covers 13 areas — including WTO rules on most-favored-nation treatment, national treatment, quantitative restrictions — and urges Japan’s major trading partners to remove or rectify problematic trade policies and measures.

In highlighting the antidumping issue, the report points out that 981 complaints had been filed with national investigating authorities worldwide as of the end of 1998, rising about 50 percent over the past five years.

While the number of countries resorting to antidumping measures has increased from 12 to 26 during the same period, the report notes an increasing number of complaints filed against the users of antidumping measures, such as the United States and European Union, by developing countries in particular.

Against this backdrop, the report says, “antidumping measures must be part of the agenda” to be taken up at the new round of WTO trade liberalization talks, whose launch at the Seattle ministerial conference in December collapsed with Washington strongly opposed to such a proposal.

Noting 80 percent of Japanese steel exports to the U.S. have been subject to antidumping investigations and measures since the summer of 1997, the report underscores the need for Japan to continue to consider taking these cases to the WTO. The WTO recently established a dispute-settlement panel on hot-rolled steel.

While partly attributing the failure in Seattle to Washington’s lack of leadership, the report stresses the need for Japan to iron out differences with other countries and the WTO secretariat. so as to realize an early start to comprehensive negotiations in a new round.

Also emphasized in this year’s report is the issue regarding the accession of China, Russia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia to the WTO.

With China and Taiwan in the final stage of negotiations for entry into the body, Taiwan is expected to work out conformity between the WTO rules and its own policy of indirect communications, trade and transport with mainland China and restrictions on China-bound investment, the report says.

Based on the report, MITI on Friday singled out 14 priority issues in proceeding with its trade policies in the fiscal year that starts today.

These include U.S. anti-dumping measures and safeguards on steel products, compliance with the WTO Antidumping Agreement, administration of Section 301 of the Trade Act, the Massachusetts Law on Myanmar, and other issues concerning the EU, Canada, India and other Asian countries.

The English version of the 2000 trade report will be available at the end of this month.

WTO threat from U.S.

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States on Thursday threatened to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over access to Japan’s telecommunications market unless Tokyo pledges a deep cut in interconnection fees charged by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. by the end of July.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative unveiled the plan in an annual report meant to review compliance of a telecom trade accord concluded with the U.S.

“Japan’s failure to implement cost-oriented interconnection rates calls into question its adherence to its WTO commitments to ensure cost-based interconnection rates and regulate its market in an impartial manner,” U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said in a statement. , compiled under Section 1377 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitive Act of 1988, says NTT does not offer cost-based interconnection rates, a violation of WTO rules.

Additional actions, including taking the case to the Geneva-based world trade body, may be necessary to ensure that Japan abides by its WTO commitments, it says.

The U.S. will make a final decision on the matter by the end of July, the report says.

This suggests Washington plans to take up the issue during a meeting between Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and U.S. President Bill Clinton to be held on the sidelines of the July 21-23 Group of Eight summit in Okinawa.

Meeting reporters following the release of the report, a senior U.S. trade official said no meeting has been scheduled for now between the two countries over the matter.

“But we have made clear to Japan that we are open to further discussion on this issue,” she said.

The USTR highlighted the NTT issue in the report, apparently in response to the rupture at a high-level deregulatory meeting in Tokyo on March 23.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley met with Posts and Telecommunications Minister Eita Yashiro on Thursday to make a final push for Tokyo to compromise on the matter, but that meeting “failed to break the logjam,” the senior U.S. trade official said.

The NTT access-charge issue is seen as the biggest stumbling block in the enhanced-deregulation talks, which were aimed at compiling the third joint report on a comprehensive deregulation report by Thursday, the last day of fiscal 1999.