U.S. counters steel demand with reform entreaty

LOS CABOS, Mexico — Japan on Wednesday demanded that the United States scrap antidumping tariffs it imposed in March on an array of steel imports, while the U.S. urged Tokyo to open up its medical and distribution industries.

Aiming to promote trade and spur economic growth, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jon Huntsman exchanged deregulatory reform lists during a meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings.

Japan also asked the U.S. to fully respect the so-called sunset rules of phasing out antidumping duties after a certain period of time.

“There remain regulations and systems in the United States that are inconsistent with the idea of free trade and impede fair competition,” according to the Japanese document. “Various unilateral measures that the government of the United States of America has employed are typical examples, and questionable from the viewpoint of their consistencies with the World Trade Organization rules as well.”

The U.S. meanwhile presented a 45-page regulatory reform list containing a wide range of deregulation requests, including reforms in medical and distribution industries.

A senior U.S. official said the efforts would help the long-struggling Japanese economy return to sustainable growth and make the Japanese market more accessible to foreign products.

“The measures we have recommended will help Japan more quickly get its economy back on track and increase access to its markets,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement.

The U.S. urged Japan to establish a prime minister’s council on comprehensive health care reform that would “provide meaningful opportunities for all stakeholders, including foreign industry, to present and discuss ideas.”

“Such a body would consider ways to increase the system’s overall efficacy to maintain quality care for an aging population while containing overall costs,” the U.S. document says.

The U.S. also asked Japan to cut landing fees at its major international airports to help facilitate air cargo services. The landing fees at Tokyo and Osaka international airports are the highest in the world, a U.S. trade official said.

Japan should “formulate the level of landing fees in an open and transparent manner, and based on the actual cost of providing services,” the U.S. document says.

The U.S. also urged Japan to remove barriers to e-commerce and strengthen protection of intellectual property rights, and to ensure its planned establishment of special zones for structural reform is carried out in a transparent, nondiscriminatory manner.

As part of its reform requests for Japan’s competition policy, the U.S. called on Japan to make the Fair Trade Commission an independent agency under the Cabinet Office. The commission is now under the jurisdiction of the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.

The exchange of the reform requests is the second of its kind under the bilateral Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative.

The initiative is part of the Japan-U.S. Economic Partnership for Growth, launched in June 2001 by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush to promote sustainable growth in both countries and throughout the world.

Based on the mutual requests, officials from both sides will hold regulatory reform talks and report the results to their respective leaders in June.

Gist of U.S. deregulation ideas

Following is a summary of regulatory reform ideas presented by the United States to Japan on Wednesday:

* The government should establish a prime ministerial council on comprehensive health care reform and invite foreign companies to be members of the council.

* Landing fees at international airports should be reduced.

* Barriers that impede e-commerce should be removed.

* The Fair Trade Commission should be made an independent agency under the Cabinet Office.

* The government should ensure that the proposed special zones for structural reform are established in a transparent, nondiscriminatory manner.

* An independent regulatory body for Japan’s telecommunications sector that would be shielded from political influence should be established.