• Kyodo

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Japan on Monday acted on behalf of 14 countries in proposing that the WTO rewrite its antidumping rules to take into account the interests of consumers in importing countries.

The proposal also contains new limitations on how antidumping measures can be applied.

Trade sources said Koichi Haraguchi, Japan’s ambassador to the WTO, outlined the 12-point proposal on antidumping measures during a negotiating session on trade rules that could be incorporated into a new round of trade talks on lowering trade barriers.

The proposal calls for a new emphasis on what’s good for consumers, with the proponents arguing that importing countries tend to ignore consumers’ interests when they levy dumping tariffs to protect domestic industries.

Japan, which has been a constant target of dumping tariffs by the United States, has taken a lead role in pushing for a comprehensive review of the World Trade Organization’s antidumping policy.

Proponents of tighter rules on antidumping have targeted the increasingly common practice among importing countries of keeping dumping tariffs in place beyond five years whereas, as a matter of general principle, WTO rules require them to drop the tariffs after that period.

Exporting countries that are subject to dumping tariffs also claim that importing countries tend to ignore the realities of trade in assessing penalties for dumping.

One such reality, they say, is the movement of export prices in relation to the economic forces of supply and demand in the exporting and importing countries.

While Japan and its partners argued against antidumping measures, New Zealand and seven fishery exporting countries proposed tougher rules on trade-distorting fishery subsidies, which they say lead to over-fishing and a depletion of marine resources.

Japan and other countries that subsidize fishery industries argue that paying subsidies to specific industries is a general government policy and fishermen should be not singled out in the debate on government subsidies.

Retaliatory tariffs threat

Takeo Hiranuma on Tuesday again reiterated Japan’s stance in the steel tariffs rift with the U.S., threatening to slap retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. imports if Washington fails to meet demands for compensation.

“We have no choice but to proceed in accordance with World Trade Organization rules,” Hiranuma said after a failed attempt last week to resolve the issue, which stems from U.S. safeguard tariffs imposed recently on most steel imports.

Last Wednesday in Washington, the economy, trade and industry minister wrapped up two days of talks with senior U.S. trade officials. The two sides were unable to narrow differences over Tokyo’s demand that Washington compensate it by lowering tariffs on other Japanese exports.

The U.S. insists no compensation is needed since it can point to “suffering” caused to U.S. steel producers due to increased imports during the late 1990s. It also insists any unilateral retaliatory action taken by Japan would contravene WTO procedures.

Hiranuma, who met with Commerce Secretary Don Evans and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, is expected to meet Zoellick again in Paris on the sidelines of a two-day ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, beginning May 15.

The meeting in Paris is shaping up as the last chance for the two countries to resolve the steel issue without plunging into a tit-for-tat trade war.

Under WTO rules, Japan must notify the the body by May 17 if it decides to take retaliatory action against the U.S. move to impose three-year tariffs of up to 30 percent on an array of steel imports in order to help struggling U.S. steelmakers. Should countermeasures be decided, they must be implemented by June 17.

The hefty U.S. tariffs, which went into effect March 20, have prompted Japan, the European Union and other steel-exporting countries to file complaints with the WTO.

Financial talks halted

Japan and the United States have postponed vice-ministerial financial talks scheduled for this week, the Finance Ministry and the Financial Services Agency said Tuesday.

The delay was caused by differences over scheduling, a ministry official said.

Haruhiko Kuroda, vice finance minister for international affairs, and Yoshio Okubo, the FSA’s deputy commissioner for international affairs, were to attend the meeting Wednesday. The U.S. was to be represented by John Taylor, treasury undersecretary for international affairs.

The meeting is a part of a bilateral economic consultation process that started last fall.

Japan’s bad-loan problem was expected to be high on the agenda for the talks.

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