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Japan will allow imports of Chinese nori beginning next fiscal year, Yoshinobu Shimamura, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said Friday.

Japan has adopted an import quota system for the seaweed to help protect domestic producers. South Korea is designated as the sole exporter of nori under the current system.

China asked Japan to review the quota system because it might violate World Trade Organization rules. China became a WTO member in 2002.

The decision is expected to deal a blow to Japanese and South Korean seaweed producers because the price of Chinese-made nori is about half that of domestic nori.

Japan can import 240 million sheets of nori under the quota system in fiscal 2004, equal to about 2 percent of its total domestic production. The current quota system will be maintained.

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