Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa repeated his demand Tuesday that the U.S. scrap the Byrd Amendment but expressed concern that Japan’s retaliatory duties on U.S. steel products could spill over to the bilateral row over the ban on U.S. beef imports.

“I believe the countervailing tariff by itself would not affect bilateral ties. But when the issue is combined with the BSE row, I hope there will be no negative impact on relations,” Nakagawa said at a news conference. BSE stands for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the scientific term for mad cow disease.

He apparently fears U.S. retaliation against the imposition of Japan’s countervailing duties by imposing economic sanctions over the failure to swiftly resume beef imports.

The trade ministry announced Monday it will impose 15 percent retaliatory tariffs on seven types of U.S. ball bearings and three other steel products from Sept. 1, in response to the Byrd Amendment, a U.S. antidumping law that violates global trade rules.

It will be the first retaliatory measure taken by Japan against a trading partner.

The tariffs, which could rise as high as 5.7 billion yen, will also target airplane parts, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

Japan has long demanded the repeal of duties imposed by the U.S. on Japanese steel products under the Byrd Amendment, which has been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.

Nakagawa expressed hope at the news conference that the U.S. will move to scrap the amendment as soon as possible. “The abolishment would contribute to fair trade,” he said.

The amendment allows antidumping duties collected by the U.S. government to be shared with domestic industries to help offset damage from cheap imports.

The WTO ruled in January 2003 that the U.S. legislation violates world trade rules, after complaints were filed by 11 economies, including Japan, the European Union and Canada. Last November, the WTO gave approval for Japan and seven other economies to take retaliatory measures.

Japan and the U.S. have been in dispute over Japan’s ban on U.S. beef that has been in place since December 2003, when the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was reported.

In April, lawmakers submitted resolutions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives urging the U.S. Trade Representative to immediately impose sanctions on Japan for not quickly lifting its beef import ban.

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