Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Japan ready to counter US steel tariffs by Nov. 30

AP , TOKYO

Japan is ready to counter US steel import tariffs with its own levies on American goods if Washington doesn't remove the duties by month's end, a report said yesterday.

The government plans next week to formally announce the penalties, including a punitive 30 percent tariff on US steel and a 5 percent special tax on leather goods and clothes, Kyodo News reported.

The steps would be in retaliation for the 8 to 30 percent tariffs the US imposed on certain kinds of imported steel through March 2005.

The US tariffs were designed to give its battered steel industry breathing space to regroup and consolidate, but Washington's trading partners argued they were illegal.

Japan and other countries this month won a ruling from the WTO that the tariffs violated international fair-trade regulations, clearing the way for the retaliatory steps.

Tokyo will notify the WTO of its intention to retaliate if Washington fails to withdraw the duties by the end of this month, Kyodo said, citing unidentified trade officials.

Kyodo reported Tokyo's penalties would amount to ?10.7 billion (US$98 million) a year, roughly equal to the financial damages suffered by Japanese steel producers from the US duties.

Japan's trade ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

The EU has also threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions of up to US$2.2 billion by introducing 100 percent duties on some US imports, effectively pricing those goods out of the EU market.

Norway announced Friday it would give the US until Dec. 6 to lift tariffs on foreign steel or face a 30 percent penalty duty on American products.

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