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Japan believes that China’s tightening of quarantine measures in April was not made in retaliation for import curbs Japan imposed on some of its farm products, Japanese Trade Ministry officials said Monday.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it surveyed 486 Japanese exporters to China and found only two cases of products that failed to clear Chinese customs since the new quarantine steps took effect.

The new steps require some goods to be shipped in wooden containers to prevent the migration of foreign species of worms and other insects.

The two cases cited were shipments of steel and chemical products that were suspended by China when worms were found in the wooden parts of the containers. The companies said the containers were properly fumigated.

On April 18, China informed Japan it would tighten its procedures since worms had been found in Japanese exports packed in wooden containers.

The timing coincided with Japan’s imposition of “safeguard” import restrictions on three kinds of farm imports that came mostly from China and raised concern the Chinese were retaliating for the measures, a ministry official said.

The ministry said, however, that the result of the poll indicates the Chinese action is not retaliatory, the official said.

Of the 486 exporters, 21 said their exports to China had been affected by China’s tighter quarantine measures.

Most of the 21 cases occurred because China’s usually lax supervision of quarantine requirements was tightened in April, particularly in Guangdong Province, the official said.

The tightened steps include requiring certificates for every container, which affected three companies. Previously, one certificate was valid for representing an entire consignment.

With regard to the two shipments in question, the government will make more detailed inquiries and deal with them individually, the official said.

Vice Trade Minister Katsusada Hirose said last week that Japan will look more closely into the matter and speak to China if necessary. Overall, however, “The anticipated effects have so far been limited,” he said.

The day after Japan slapped the emergency imports curbs on the three agricultural products, China reportedly began to hold up a wide range of Japanese imports packed in wooden containers, refusing to issue paperwork certifying the containers had been properly fumigated.

In late April, 180 Japanese businesses operating in Guangdong Province complained to the Japanese Consulate in Guangzhou that the measure targets only Japanese shipments.

The official said, however, that the move stems from China’s decision in November 1999 to require that U.S. and Japanese exports in wooden containers be fumigated beginning in 2000, and that enforcement of the measures for Japanese shipments had been loose.

The measure is not irrational because the type of worms it targets are found mostly in Japan and the United States, he said.

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