• Kyodo

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A Chinese Trade Ministry bulletin on Saturday warned that Beijing is set to retaliate if Tokyo decides to impose emergency curbs on soaring imports from China of stone leeks, shiitake mushrooms and rushes used in tatami mats.

“China is likely to retaliate by taking appropriate measures,” reported International Business, a publication under the Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Ministry.

The report sharply contradicts Beijing’s earlier stated position that it wants to avoid politicizing the trade issue between the two nations and instead resolve the issue through dialogue.

On Friday, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “We hope that the issue would be resolved without affecting the smooth progress of bilateral relations.”

China has refused Japan’s compromise request for voluntary export curbs on the three farm products.

Earlier Friday in Tokyo, Agriculture Minister Yoshio Yatsu, Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma reached a basic agreement to impose the temporary emergency curb under a safeguard mechanism of the World Trade Organization.

A final decision on the restrictions will be made this week when the three ministers meet with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono.

If imposed, the curb — while temporary — will be the first measure taken by Japan under the WTO mechanism, which is designed to slow imports to allow a specific industry to adjust to heightened competition from foreign suppliers.

Under the planned restrictions, Tokyo will raise tariffs to compensate for the difference between domestic wholesale prices and import prices for a maximum of 200 days. The duties could take effect in mid-April.

Japan’s vegetable imports have soared in recent years. In 2000, imports of fresh vegetables jumped 50 percent from 1996 levels. Of these, imports of stone leeks increased roughly 24-fold, while those of shiitake and rush products soared 70 percent and 80 percent.

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