Trade minister Takeo Hiranuma said Tuesday he plans to urge U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick during telephone talks this week to strive to avert Japan’s planned retaliatory action against a range of steel import tariffs imposed by Washington.

“If there is no progress, we will have to make a final decision, taking into account various circumstances,” Hiranuma, minister of economy, trade and industry, told a news conference.

Japan must decide by June 18 whether to impose 100 percent retaliatory tariffs on various U.S. steel exports.

Tokyo, which notified the World Trade Organization last month of its retaliation plans, hopes to hold ministerial telephone negotiations before that deadline.

Japan-U.S. reform talks

Japan and the United States will hold vice ministerial-level talks on regulatory reforms Thursday in Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Shotaro Oshima, deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, will head the Japanese side and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jon Huntsman will lead the U.S. team, the ministry said in a statement.

In the meeting, Tokyo and Washington will have discussions based on a series of bilateral working-level talks on requests for regulatory reforms exchanged last October as well as vice ministerial-level talks held in Washington in March, according to the ministry.

The talks will be based on an accord reached by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush last June.

The accord was to launch the Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative under the framework of the bilateral Economic Partnership for Growth.

The initiative covers four key sectors — telecommunications, information technologies, energy, and medical devices and pharmaceuticals. It also covers cross-sector issues such as trade and investment, distribution and legal matters.

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