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The government announced a decision Tuesday to extend by six months the April 15 deadline for an investigation to decide whether to invoke import curbs on towel and towel products from China and Vietnam.

“I instructed the ministry to further examine the situation by extending a term of the investigation for another six months,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma told a regular news conference.

The decision is the second time the ministry has extended the term of the probe, which was initially launched last April and was extended six months in October.

Later this week, the ministry will seek approval of the extension by a subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council, an advisory panel to the trade minister, Hiranuma said.

As a reason for the extension, Hiranuma said that towel and towel product imports are fluctuating and that the ministry needs to further monitor the trends.

“There is a possibility that the imports will surge from now. On the other hand, we can’t say that the imports increased enough to invoke the safeguard measure,” Hiranuma said.

Towel imports declined 2.2 percent to 5,483 tons in December and 7.2 percent to 5,028 tons in January on a year-on-year basis, while the imports increased 2.9 percent to 3,956 tons in February, according to the ministry.

The World Trade Organization allows member countries to impose import restrictions for a certain period of time to protect domestic producers from a surge in imports. The safeguard measure aims to give domestic producers an opportunity to make structural reforms.

The ministry launched the investigation after it received a petition by the Japan Towel Industrial Association that called for import curbs on towel and towel products from the two Asian countries.

“Since August, the towel industry has been carrying out structural reforms,” Hiranuma said. “We hope the industry will continue the positive efforts.”

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