A government report released Friday calls on China to slash tariffs and root out piracy of Japanese products.
The report of unfair practices by trading partners also renewed criticism of U.S. steel import restriction policies, following the U.S. levying of tariffs to safeguard U.S. steelmakers and Japan taking issue in January with a U.S. antidumping measure on surface-treated steel sheets.
The 2002 Report on the World Trade Organization Consistency of Trade Policies by Major Trading Partners takes up policies Japan considers inconsistent with the WTO. It covers 11 countries and regions, including, for the first time, China and Taiwan.
Dating to 1992, the annual report was originally aimed at countering a U.S. Trade Representative Office report on trade barriers. The government considers it a rules-oriented assessment of other countries’ trade policies.
In the latest issue, compiled by an Industrial Structure Council panel advising the economy, trade and industry minister, Tokyo also addressed policies of the European Union, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, India, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and some Latin American nations.
In 2001, Japan’s top 10 trade partners were the U.S, the EU, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and Indonesia. The Philippines ranked 14th, Canada 15th and India 18th.
On China, the report specifically calls for lowering tariffs on photo film, as Beijing has so far failed to do so despite its commitment under terms of admission to the Geneva-based trade watchdog.
As an example, Japanese film manufacturers have been charged tariffs equivalent to 109.2 percent for one particular product, although China had pledged to drop this to 42 percent under WTO admission terms, an official said.
Calling tariff concessions “one of the most fundamental obligations with the WTO,” the report also points to Beijing’s failure to meet them immediately when it joined the trade body on Dec. 11. It cut tariffs as promised on most imports Jan. 1.
On piracy in China, the report urges Beijing to ensure compliance with WTO rules on intellectual property rights by doing away with protectionism at local levels.
Overall, however, China has been “seriously striving to make laws and revise laws, reform organizations and train officials necessary with the accession to the WTO,” the report says.
The report also urges ASEAN, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India to crack down on piracy of patented goods in response to vociferous complaints by Japanese manufacturers.
It individually refers to four ASEAN members — Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines — over such issues as import restrictions, high tariffs and regulations on trade in services.
The report also raises issue with the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Mercosur common market arrangement of four Latin American nations because of some provisions for raising barriers around regional trading blocs.
NAFTA’s provision to allow the region to be exempt from a member’s safeguard curbs is “irrational” because the purpose of the mechanism is to protect a domestic industry from surging imports from any country, it says.
From this viewpoint, Japan considers the recent U.S. safeguard tariffs, levied on most steel imports excluding those from Canada and Mexico under the NAFTA accord, to go against WTO rules.
The report, however, mentions positively Japan’s first-ever FTA, about to be concluded with Singapore, as a means of enhancing WTO rules, despite the fact that it sidesteps farm trade.
It also addresses Argentina’s safeguard tariffs on motorbike imports as problematic, saying domestic makers are struggling because of factors other than imports, as well as Brazil’s tax incentives to develop domestic shipping firms.
Aside from these country-by-country trade policies, the report refers to the three-year trade round WTO members launched in November, the latest situation over Russia’s bid to join the WTO, and other countries’ reports on Japan’s trade policies, including the USTR’s report for 2001.
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