• Kyodo

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China formally announced it will impose emergency three-year curbs on foreign steel imports beginning Wednesday.

The so-called safeguard tariff measures invoked under World Trade Organization trade rules will apply to five categories of steel products, including hot-rolled steel sheets and cold-rolled stainless sheets, China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation said Tuesday.

The measures comprise an extension of preliminary steel tariffs Beijing adopted May 24.

China says the tariffs are necessary to compensate for the U.S. imposition in March of three-year tariffs of up to 30 percent on an array of steel imports. The U.S. tariffs are designed to aid the ailing U.S. steel industry.

Japanese trade officials visiting China in mid-September failed to persuade Beijing to scrap the emergency tariffs.

The trade talks between China and Japan were based on the WTO Agreement on Safeguards, which stipulates that a WTO member wishing to apply or extend a safeguard measure should provide “adequate opportunity for prior consultations.”

In late August, nearly 40 percent of Japanese products subject to U.S. emergency steel tariffs were granted exemptions thanks to a turnaround by Washington.

Washington’s decision followed a threat by Japan to the WTO in May — later withdrawn — that it would impose 100 percent retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. goods.

The European Union and South Korea have also held WTO-mandated talks with China aimed at persuading Beijing not to impose the steel tariffs.

The time frame of China’s three-year tariffs includes the preliminary import checks it adopted May 25, which means they will expire in May 2005.

The safeguard tariffs are designed to stem a tide of imports from Japan and South Korea, whose makers face diminishing demand at home, an official with the China Association of Iron and Steel Industries was quoted by state media as saying Monday.

“Steel trade between the three countries is possible as East Asia tightens economic cooperation ties, but is unlikely in the next five years,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by the English-language newspaper China Daily.

The safeguard tariffs also target imports from Taiwan and Russia, the official was reported as saying.

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