MITI slams unilateral U.S. trade practices

The United States’ continued use of unilateral measures, including Section 301 of the 1974 U.S. Trade Act, goes against the free-trade principles of the World Trade Organization, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said in a report released Mar. 31.

The report also warns that Washington’s measures in telecommunications and maritime transportation services may be in violation of the WTO’s “stand still” principle, which prohibits the introduction of new restrictions inconsistent with international rules. The 1997 Report on the WTO Consistency of Trade Policies by Major Trading Partners was compiled by a subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council, an advisory body to the trade minister.

The sixth annual report examines the trade policies and practices of Japan’s 10 major WTO trading partners: the U.S., the European Union, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and Canada. In addition, the report includes accounts on China, Taiwan and Russia, whose accessions to the WTO are now under negotiation.

While acknowledging Washington’s active use of dispute settlement procedures under the WTO as a “positive” development, MITI said the U.S. continues to maintain procedures that may lead to unilateral measures. “It should be noted that the U.S. has used Section 301 procedures alongside the WTO dispute settlement procedures to press for negotiations,” the report says.

The U.S. is currently moving toward imposing sanctions over harbor services, claiming that Japan’s ambiguous business practice concerning waterfront cargo services is discriminatory against foreign ships. Meanwhile, in the area of telecommunications services, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission decided last month to put off granting licenses to Japan’s two leading telecommunications companies — NTT and KDD — to operate international services based in the U.S.

The move is considered to be an effective retaliation by Washington for Japan’s refusal of a U.S. demand to remove rules limiting the foreign ownership of NTT and KDD to less than 20 percent.