The United States called on the Japanese trade watchdog on Oct. 22 to investigate the glass distribution system, which Washington claims is manipulated by three major Japanese firms and limits foreign access.Japan’s Fair Trade Commission took note of the request but remained noncommittal on whether it will actually carry out an investigation, citing a 1993 investigation carried out at Washington’s request and subsequent follow-ups that found no illegalities.The exchange came on the last day of a two-day special review meeting in Tokyo that was held to discuss the implementation of the 1995 U.S.-Japan Flat Glass Agreement, according to an official of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.The U.S. side, led by David Burns, senior adviser for Japan at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, expressed concern about lagging progress in increasing foreign access to the Japanese flat glass market due mainly to a “sophisticated system of interlocking relationships” between Japanese glass manufacturers and distributors. Japan was represented by MITI, the FTC and other government agencies.Earlier this month, Washington cited Japan’s flat glass market as an area of concern in its annual report on foreign trade practices. During the two-day meeting, the Japanese side contended that if there are any problems, they stem from individual companies’ market-penetrating efforts rather than the barriers alleged by the U.S.

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