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OSAKA — Apparel wholesaler Asakurashoji Co. has applied for court protection from creditors under a fast-track corporate rehabilitation law, a private research institute said Monday.

Competition in the domestic necktie market has been intensifying amid surging imports from China, and the Nishijin Textile Industrial Association, a group of Kyoto-based necktie makers, is preparing to petition the government to invoke emergency curbs.

Asakurashoji, saddled with liabilities of some 4 billion yen, filed for protection with the Osaka District Court, Teikoku Databank Ltd. said.

The firm’s sales reached 10.6 billion yen for the business year through November 1990. They shrank to 4.3 billion yen for the year through November, however, hit by the growth in major mass merchandise outlets and sluggish performances at department stores with which it had business ties.

In its heyday, the Osaka-based wholesaler handled a wide range of neckties, dealing with foreign brands such as Pierre Cardin as well as its own brand products.

Farm import curbs

Japan invoked temporary emergency import curbs Monday on three agricultural products that are mainly shipped from China.

The move marks the first time the government has taken action of this kind under the ordinary safeguard mechanism of the World Trade Organization.

The measure will remain in place for up to 200 days through Nov. 8. It allows Japan to impose higher tariffs on imports of stone leeks, shiitake mushrooms and rushes used in tatami mats, once their import quantities surpass the average amounts logged between 1997 and 1999.

Existing tariffs will otherwise be charged on imports up to the 1997-1999 levels.

The tariff imposed on leeks will be increased from 3 percent to 256 percent when imports exceed 5,383 tons. When shiitake imports surpass 8,003 tons, the tariff will rise from 4.3 percent to 266 percent. For rushes, a tariff of 106 percent — up from 6 percent — will be charged when imports exceed 7,949 tons.

The WTO mechanism is designed to help domestic industries adjust to heightened competition from foreign suppliers by slowing imports.

Imports of leeks hit 37,375 tons in 2000 — a 25-fold increase from 1996 levels. Those of shiitake jumped about 70 percent to 42,057 tons, while rush imports nearly doubled to 20.3 million mats.

Around 98 percent of imported stone leeks and 99 percent of shiitake and rush come into Japan from China.

China has criticized Japan’s decision to invoke import curbs. An Min, Chinese vice trade minister, warned that the measures will have “grave consequences” and emphasized that Beijing reserves the right to impose retaliatory measures.

Japan plans to continue discussions with China in order to seek a solution to the issue, a Japanese government official said.

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