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Japan has requested the World Trade Organization to rule on a U.S. antidumping law, charging that the law is not in compliance with WTO rules, government officials said Thursday.

The appeal, filed under the WTO dispute-resolution process, requires the United States to participate in bilateral talks on the issue. But if the two sides do not reach an settlement, Japan will ask the WTO to set up a dispute-settlement panel, the officials said.

The law in question is the 1916 Antidumping Act, a piece of legislation that makes dumping in the U.S. market fair game to civil suits. U.S. steelmaker Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. used the law to file a lawsuit in Ohio in November against several foreign firms, including Marubeni Corp., Mitsui & Co., and Itochu Corp.

Complaints from the U.S. steel industry have been vocal, and U.S. President Bill Clinton mentioned those concerns in the State of the Union address in January. The WTO appeal is seen as retaliation for growing U.S. pressure on bilateral steel trade, industry observers say.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department is set to announce a preliminary ruling on Friday on whether steel exported by Japanese, Brazilian and Russian steelmakers is being exported at prices lower than U.S. market prices.

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