• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States remained at loggerheads Tuesday over tariffs imposed by the U.S. in March on a range of steel imports, moving Tokyo a step closer to retaliation.

“If there is no reasonable response from the U.S., Japan will have to take countermeasures,” trade minister Takeo Hiranuma said in Washington after meeting with Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

Hiranuma, minister of economy, trade, and industry, said he reiterated that Japan believes the curbs are inconsistent with World Trade Organization rules and called on the U.S. to compensate Japan for potential export losses.

Evans repeated Washington’s position that the import restrictions are consistent with WTO rules and thus the U.S. is not obliged to offer compensation, Hiranuma said.

On March 20, the U.S. imposed three-year import tariffs of up to 30 percent on an array of steel products in an effort to protect struggling U.S. steelmakers, prompting the European Union, Japan and other steel exporters to file complaints with the WTO.

May 17 will be the effective deadline for countries to decide whether to implement countermeasures, as those seeking to impose countervailing tariffs on American goods must submit a list of targeted products to the WTO by this date.

Countervailing tariffs would have to be introduced within 30 days of the WTO notification.

Hiranuma said he asked Evans to examine carefully dumping charges leveled by the U.S. steel industry against imports of cold-rolled steel.

The Commerce Department issued a preliminary ruling Monday that cold-rolled steel products imported from Japan and 19 other exporters are being dumped on the U.S. market.

“We have recognition that Japan’s domestic prices (of cold-rolled steel) are lower than export prices,” Hiranuma said.

The U.S. International Trade Commission issued a preliminary ruling in November that the cold-rolled steel imports are hurting the U.S. steel industry.

If the Commerce Department and the ITC each issue a final ruling that supports the U.S. industry’s complaint, antidumping duties will be imposed on the products.

Cold-rolled steel, Japan’s mainstay steel export, is a high value-added product used in automobiles, electrical appliances and other equipment.

It already faces the highest additional tariff rate of 30 percent under the U.S. import restriction measures.

Hiranuma, who arrived in Washington earlier Tuesday, was also scheduled to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on Wednesday.

He was scheduled to fly to Detroit on Wednesday evening to attend a meeting of energy ministers from the Group of Eight industrial powers.

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