Trade minister Takeo Hiranuma will reiterate Japan’s calls for the United States to scrap hefty tariffs on steel imports when he meets U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans later this week, a top ministry official said Monday.

“We will focus on taking issue with the U.S. safeguards,” imposed last month to rescue struggling U.S. steelmakers, Katsusada Hirose, Economy, Trade and Industry vice minister, said at a news conference.

Hiranuma and Evans will likely meet Friday.

Asked if Hiranuma will negotiate for additional exemptions from the measures, Hirose said, “The (steel) industry must negotiate the issue of exemptions with (the relevant) authorities.”

The U.S. Commerce Department is examining which specific steel products it will exempt from the measures, such as those not produced by U.S. makers, and has set a July 2 deadline. It has already exempted 21 of 49 items called for by Japanese industry.

In talks in Tokyo on Thursday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, foreign and trade ministers urged the U.S. to drop the safeguard tariffs, as high as 30 percent, declaring for the first time that Tokyo is ready to retaliate.

But the two sides failed to narrow their differences as Zoellick said Washington believes its action is consistent with World Trade Organization rules.

Japan, the European Union and four other steel exporters also failed to bridge the gap with the U.S. in an inaugural two-day meeting in Geneva, which ended Friday.

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