In a move that is likely to anger Washington and stir up controversy in the forthcoming round of global trade talks, Tokyo decided Wednesday to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the U.S. decision in June to impose anti-dumping duties on Japanese hot-rolled steel imports.

On June 18, the U.S. government imposed anti-dumping duties of up to 67 percent on Japanese hot-rolled steel, claiming that cheap Japanese products have substantially damaged the U.S. industry.

In the belief that the U.S. judgment was politically motivated and not impartial, the Japanese government will ask the Geneva-based trade watchdog by the end of next month to set up “bilateral consultations” to discuss problems with the U.S., according to officials of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

If the consultations fail to produce a settlement within two months, Japan can move on to the second stage by requesting the establishment of the panel.

If the case goes that far, Japan would be the second nation to ask for a WTO dispute settlement panel to intervene in U.S. antidumping actions in the steel sector. In August, South Korea also asked for bilateral consultations with the U.S. under the auspices of the WTO over stainless steel.

Since the U.S. steel industry first filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Committee over alleged dumping by Japanese exporters of hot-rolled steel last September, roughly 80 percent of all Japanese steel exported to the U.S. has been subject to anti-dumping measures or investigation.

Twenty-four other economies are now subject to the U.S. dumping complaint, according to MITI officials.

“We believe that the U.S. judgment is not correct and have pledged to properly deal with the matter as soon as we determine that the problem doesn’t lie on the Japanese side,” trade chief Takashi Fukaya told a news conference. “We have decided to take formal steps on behalf of those 24 (economies).”

Asked what made the government proceed with the WTO complaint, MITI officials said the U.S. miscalculated dumping margins and was biased both in its assessment of damage to the U.S. industry and acknowledging evidence presented from both sides before passing its judgment.

“There was political pressure behind it and (the U.S. overuse of antidumping measures) was beyond endurance,” a MITI official said.

The MITI officials said they are also considering the possibility of taking the cases of other steel items that are subject to U.S. antidumping measures to the WTO.

Referring to his meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday with Mike Moore, director general of the WTO, Fukaya said, “I have a feeling that the problem of anti-dumping measures cannot be dealt with positively in the new round of WTO negotiations unless we take determined action.”

Japan and some other countries are calling on the WTO to take up the problem of antidumping in the coming round of WTO talks, scheduled to open late next month in Seattle, in order to strengthen existing international rules.

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