• Kyodo

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China urged Japan on Wednesday to drop “safeguard” import curbs it recently slapped on three farm products mainly from China.

Asked about the measure in a briefing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum ministerial meeting being held near Shanghai, Long Yongtu, China’s vice minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation, called it “the very move of protectionism.”

“The result of ongoing negotiations depends on Japan’s response,” Long said. He did not say whether China was planning to retaliate.

Earlier in the day, Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma said Shi Guangsheng, China’s minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation, told him Tuesday that moves are being made against trade liberalization, including safeguards and antidumping.

Shi was apparently alluding to the emergency import curbs Tokyo invoked April 23 on stone leeks, shiitake and rushes used in tatami mats, the first time it has ever used the World Trade Organization mechanism.

Japanese business executives in Beijing have begun to speculate that China will retaliate by reducing import quotas for Japanese cars, according to officials in Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

But the Japanese side has yet to confirm the existence of such a plan or whether its purpose would be to retaliate against the curbs, the officials said. China has said that it reserves the right to take countermeasures unless Tokyo scraps the policy.

Imports down sharply

Imports of stone leeks and shiitake from China were down sharply last month in Tokyo following the imposition of emergency import curbs on the produce, the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market said Wednesday.

The Tsukiji and Ota markets received 54 tons of Chinese stone leeks in May, down 16.9 percent from a year earlier, and 79 tons of shiitake, down 61.5 percent.

Prices averaged 227 yen per kg of leeks, up 94 percent, and 461 yen for the mushrooms, up 78.7 percent, close to those of locally produced items.

Japan invoked a 200-day emergency tariff on April 23 on the two vegetables as well as rushes used in tatami mats in response to a steep increase in imports mostly from China.

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