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Japan to seek WTO row settlement panel's establishment Tues.

TOKYO, May 20 Kyodo

Japan will ask the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday to set up a dispute-settlement panel to investigate whether a U.S. decision to levy ''safeguard'' tariffs on steel imports is in line with WTO rules, officials said Monday.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush imposed the punitive duties on an array of steel imports March 20 to shield the struggling U.S. steel industry from less-expensive imports.

On May 17, Japan notified the WTO of a plan to slap 100% retaliatory tariffs on some imports of U.S. steel and steel products, effective June 18. It has until June 17 to decide whether to go ahead with the retaliatory action.

In the interval, it will monitor the WTO dispute-settlement proceedings and push for a compromise with the U.S. government in bilateral negotiations, the officials said.

A dispute-settlement panel is likely to be formed in late June or thereafter if the issue cannot be settled during two rounds of meetings at WTO institutions, they said.

If the panel finds against the United States, Washington can appeal to a higher WTO-supervised arbitration council, which would take about 16 months to make a decision, they said.

During that period, the U.S. safeguard tariffs on steel imports would remain in place.

Given the time-consuming WTO procedures, the Japanese government notified the WTO of a two-stage plan to impose 100% tariffs on some U.S. steel and steel products. They are likely to affect $123.43 million worth of U.S. products.

The first stage would target products worth $4.88 million from June 18.

Tokyo would reserve the right to slap tariffs on the remaining $118.55 million worth of products in the event that the WTO's dispute-settlement panel finds against the U.S. and Washington refuses to comply with the ruling.

The exact types and items to be target remained undetermined.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:May 27, 2002
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