Japan said Thursday it will consider extending past next June its antidumping duties levied on South Korean and Taiwan firms for cheap fiber imports.

An investigation into the damage to domestic fiber makers from cheap imports is being launched in response to requests from the Japanese firms, the Finance Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said.

Tokyo has been imposing duties of up to 13.5 percent since July 26, 2002, on short polyester-fiber producers in the two economies. They are scheduled to expire next June 30.

Major domestic fiber makers Toray Industries Inc., Teijin Fibers Ltd. and Unitika Fibers Ltd. asked the government in June to look into continuing the antidumping tariffs.

On top of conventional duties, Tokyo charges a tariff of 6 percent on one South Korean firm and 13.5 percent on all the other polyester fiber exporters in the country. All Taiwanese makers are subject to a 10.3 percent duty.

Under World Trade Organization rules, a government can impose antidumping duties for up to five years if the price for an import is unfairly lower than the local price in the exporting economy and that the price difference would cause damage to its domestic industries.

Short polyester fiber is used in quilts, carpets and auto seats.

The United States has imposed and then extended similar antidumping duties, a METI official said.

The European Union has also extended the tariffs on South Korean fiber and has been looking into damage to the domestic industry from Taiwanese products, as imports sharply increased when the initial dumping duties ended, the official said.

The three Japanese makers claim that although sales prices of the fiber products have been gradually rising in the domestic market since the dumping duties debuted, the Japanese industry is still vulnerable to cheap imports.

The government is expected to take the next 10 months to conduct its investigation. If it fails to complete the probe by June 30, Japan can continue to charge antidumping duties until the examination is complete.

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