Japan formally filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization on Thursday, calling a U.S. ruling made in June against Japanese hot-rolled steel imports unfair.
Speaking to reporters, Takashi Fukaya, minister of international trade and industry, confirmed that Japan has brought the case to the Geneva-based trade watchdog and seeks bilateral talks with Washington on the issue.
Under WTO rules, the Japanese and U.S. governments are to enter bilateral talks within 30 days to attempt to settle the dispute, provided that Washington agrees.
If the two fail to resolve the issue within 60 days of the date the complaint was filed, Japan can move on to the next stage by requesting the establishment of a neutral WTO panel to adjudicate the case.
The case filed concerns a ruling Washington handed down June 18 that imposes dumping duties of up to 67 percent on Japanese hot-rolled steel, maintaining that cheap Japanese imports have substantially damaged the U.S. industry.
Fukaya announced last month that Japan would file the WTO complaint.
Asked why it took so much time for Tokyo to formally file the complaint — a move some took as Japan’s attempt to rally international support for putting antidumping on the agenda for the upcoming Seattle ministerial meeting — Fukaya flatly denied such speculation.
“It was clearly an unfair accusation of antidumping in the present framework of the WTO, ” Fukaya told reporters. He said the U.S. “overestimated” the dumping margins and the degree of damage to the U.S. steel industry after conducting a discriminatory investigation that was used to pass judgment.
“Through the bilateral consultations, Japan, as a trading nation, must make clear that the U.S. took improper antidumping measures based on the notion of protectionism,” Fukaya said, expressing confidence in Japan’s case.
Since 1997, Washington has launched antidumping investigations against nine types of steel products that account for some 80 percent of Japanese steel exports to the U.S. It has ruled against Japan in three of the cases.
As to items other than hot-rolled steel, Fukaya said Japan is still scrutinizing whether to bring them to the WTO.
Tokyo acknowledges antidumping measures are currently consistent with WTO rules, but it wants a revision to the measures.
Japan is pushing to include the revision in the agenda for the next round of trade liberalization talks to be launched at the Seattle ministerial meeting from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.
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