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Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma on Tuesday called on China to seek common ground on the trade friction that is emerging between the two countries, after Beijing’s move last week to slow Japanese imports.

He refused, however, to suggest a correlation between China’s move and Japan’s recently imposed restrictions on three agricultural products.

“We are not at the stage where we view the (Chinese) action as being linked to our provisional (import curb) measures,” the minister of economy, trade and industry told reporters.

He said the two countries should resolve the dispute through discussions, and that the negotiation channel “has yet to be blocked.”

China began blocking certain Japanese imports last week, a move widely seen as a tit-for-tat response to the emergency tariffs Japan imposed April 23 on imports of stone leeks, shiitake mushrooms and tatami rushes, all mainly come from China.

Import inspection offices in Guangdong Province, China’s predominant trading hub, are holding up a wide range of Japanese imports packed in wooden crates by refusing to issue paperwork certifying proper fumigation.

An official from China’s State Administration for Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine, however, insisted the measure was impartial.

Asked whether the Chinese action is seen as retaliatory, and thus in violation of the two countries’ bilateral trade pact, Hiranuma said, “We are not currently considering warning (China) outright that the measure is against (the pact.)”

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is working to determine the impact of the Chinese measures on Japanese companies, he said.

With the United States also expressing concern about Japan’s import curbs, Hiranuma reiterated that the government invoked the nation’s first safeguard restrictions “strictly and fairly,” in line with international rules set by the World Trade Organization.

“While we recognize that the U.S., as an advocate of free trade, has an opinion in the matter, we are confident that our action is in compliance with regulations,” he said.

The U.S. government said Monday it will put Japan’s imposition of tariffs under close scrutiny according to the so-called Super 301 provision, a U.S. trade law that allows Washington to retaliate in trade disputes.

In response to the remarks from Washington, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Tuesday that Japan does not plan to adopt emergency import curbs whenever problems arise, as doing so would only cause further conflicts.

“Just because there are some problems, we will not immediately turn to safeguard measures,” the top government spokesman said at a news conference. “We believe that such steps should not be imposed unless there is good reason.”

Fukuda was thought to be expressing his reluctance to expand curbs to other products.

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