• Kyodo

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The United States said Monday it will exclude nine more Japanese steel products from hefty tariffs it has imposed since March, Japanese officials said.

The annual import amount of the Japanese products newly added to a list of products receiving exemptions totals some 20,000 tons, they said.

The latest step apparently reflect Japan’s recent decision to put off the imposition of 100 percent retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel imports.

The Japanese government initially planned to take the retaliatory action Tuesday but announced a postponement last week, saying Washington is considering exempting items in a “constructive” manner.

The U.S. imposed three-year tariffs of up to 30 percent on an array of steel imports in March in response to complaints from U.S. manufacturers that they are being hurt by cheap steel imports.

Washington is now examining exemption requests from foreign steelmakers so that products that U.S. manufacturers do not make can continue to be shipped to U.S. users without the high tariffs. The initial list of products receiving exemptions will be fixed by early July.

Congress and the steel industry have been opposed to the idea of allowing exemptions on many foreign products, saying such a step would hamper the effectiveness of the tariffs.

Japan’s steel exports to the U.S. last year totaled about 2.2 million tons, of which some 1.4 million tons would have been subject under the new import tariffs.

Japanese steel products that have so far received exemptions amount to about 400,000 tons, according to industry officials.

Japan welcomes move

Trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Tuesday welcomed the latest U.S. move to allow more Japanese steel products to be exempted from its hefty steel tariffs, while calling for further additions to the exclusion list.

“Since the 20,000 tons added include items of keen interest to the Japanese industry, the U.S. response is appreciated in that respect,” the economy, trade and industry minister said at a news conference.

“We want other items to also be examined in a fair manner and substantially dealt with,” Hiranuma added, referring to exemptions of other steel products Tokyo is hoping to see.

Beijing talks planned

Working-level trade officials from Japan and China will meet Monday in Beijing to discuss temporary safeguard restrictions that China imposed last month on certain steel imports, the trade ministry said Tuesday.

China slapped 7 percent to 26 percent tariffs on nine types of steel products May 24 in an effort to curb imports. The restrictions are effecting for 180 days.

Japan plans to ask China to drop the restrictions in what will be their first meeting under the safeguard rules of the World Trade Organization.

Tokyo believes Beijing’s move was triggered by the three-year U.S. safeguard curbs imposed in March on an array of steel products.

But China has said its domestic steel industry has been struggling in the wake of an import surge, particularly since it removed import quotas and cut tariffs to meet WTO membership obligations.

Japanese officials expressed disappointment Tuesday over China’s step at a meeting in Beijing of steel industry leaders and government officials from both sides. It was Tokyo’s first direct response to the safeguard restrictions.

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