• Kyodo

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Japan and China should hold discussions and follow World Trade Organization guidelines in addressing bilateral trade issues before they become full-blown disputes, top Chinese legislator Li Peng said Monday.

“It would be good to solve issues through talks or in line with WTO rules, as Japan and China are both members (of the Geneva-based trade watchdog),” Li told reporters with regard to Japanese concerns over rising imports of low-priced shiitake from China.

Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, made the remarks in Miyazaki, where he visited as part of his eight-day tour of Japan that started April 2.

“We don’t want to offend Miyazaki farmers nor do we want to offend Chinese farmers,” Li said.

He added, however, that Chinese and Japanese shiitake taste different, and suggested trade would allow the two nations to enjoy both types.

In December, Japan and China set up a panel to discuss trade issues to end a dispute over emergency imports curbs Japan slapped on shiitake and two other farm products mostly from China. The curbs strained bilateral ties and led China to impose retaliatory tariffs on Japanese imports of cars, air conditioners and cellular telephones.

Japan agreed not to impose full four-year import restrictions on the three items, as allowed under WTO safeguard mechanisms, but has been closely monitoring weekly import levels of the farm goods.

The latest data show shiitake imports plunged 66 percent in the week ending March 29 compared with the previous year, but some farmers still want the government to invoke safeguard curbs to protect them from other pressures arising from low-priced Chinese exports.

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