• Kyodo

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The United States will exclude an additional 116 products from its emergency tariffs on most steel imports, including 68 Japanese products, Japanese trade officials said Monday.

The addition is equivalent to 54,000 metric tons of Japanese exports to the U.S. last year. It brings the total amount of exemptions allowed to Japanese steelmakers to about 250,000 tons.

Last week, Washington decided to exclude nine more Japanese steel products, equivalent to 20,000 tons, from the safeguard tariffs it imposed in March to help the beleaguered U.S. industry.

The series of additions is seen as making it less likely for Japan to pursue its right to slap 100 percent tariffs on certain U.S. imports in retaliation for the estimated damage caused by the U.S. steel import restrictions.

Japan’s steel exports to the U.S. totaled 2.2 million tons in 2001, of which 1.4 million tons worth of items were initially subject to the hefty tariffs of up to 30 percent.

Japan initially asked for 344,000 tons to be exempted and then raised that figure by more than 400,000 tons through additional requests.

The U.S. Commerce Department plans to continue announcing more exclusions until early July related to initial requests filed by affected foreign steelmakers and their domestic users for 470 products, the officials said.

The department will also continue examining requests for another 800 items.

Meanwhile, trade minister Takeo Hiranuma welcomed Washington’s move.

“We welcome the constructive efforts of the U.S. as a step forward to solving the problem,” he said.

Minister prods China

Trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Tuesday urged China to scrap temporary curbs on steel imports, citing Tokyo’s doubts over their legitimacy, which he said were not quelled in talks the previous day.

“Since we continue to doubt the consistency of the Chinese measures with World Trade Organization rules, we requested the provisional measures be retracted,” said Hiranuma, the minister of economy, trade and industry.

In a daylong meeting in Beijing on Monday, Japan asked China to exclude Japanese products from its 180-day safeguard import curbs, a request China resisted.

China agreed, however, to consider making some exceptions.

Hiranuma said Japan also asked China to provide detailed explanations of whether its industry is actually suffering from a surge of imports.

“We’d like to examine the detailed documents to be provided,” he said, adding Tokyo expects the talks to continue.

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