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Tue, Apr 01, 2003 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Steel tariffs
US may receive sanctions

US President George W. Bush will likely maintain contested steel tariffs in spite of potential sanctions by the WTO, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a lawyer. The US has maintained steel tariffs and quotas even after the WTO ruled against the US in the last six cases on steel tariffs, the Journal said. The US plans to start lengthy negotiations with the WTO on the issue, it reported. The tariff program, which lasts three years, will be complete by the time these negotiations are completed, according to the Journal. The WTO ruled last week that steel import tariffs the US levied a year ago are illegal after complaints from the EU, Japan, Brazil, China and Canada among others. "The likelihood of anything being done before the three year period is done is extremely remote," said Louis Mastriani, a senior partner with Adduci, Mastriani & Schaumberg LLP, a law firm whose clients include US steelmakers, the Journal said.

■ SK Global

Share trades suspended

The Korea Stock Exchange said yesterday it had suspended trading in shares of SK Global, the scandal-tainted trading unit of the country's third largest conglomerate SK Group. The move, announced prior to the market opening, followed a new outside audit report that showed SK Global's capital had been completely eroded. SK Global posted a net loss of 296.7 billion won (US$235.6 million) last year after booking 476.8 billion won in uncollectable debt repayment guarantees as losses in its balance sheet, according to the audit report. Its irregular bookkeeping and bad assets completely eroded its capital, which was negative 212.8 billion won at the end of last year, it said.

■ WorldCom

Costs shifted to MCI books

WorldCom Inc, the telephone company that last year filed the biggest US insolvency, improved the appearance of its finances in 2001 by moving more than US$3 billion of costs to its MCI unit, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter. WorldCom's bankruptcy examiner and the US Securities and Exchange Commission are looking at whether securities laws or corporate-governance practices were violated, the newspaper said. Bernard Ebbers, then WorldCom's chief executive officer, and other top executives with large amounts of WorldCom shares but less MCI stock may have benefited from the shifting of expenses, the Journal said.

■ Agriculture

Japan's farm minister quits

Japan's farm minister resigned yesterday over a money scandal involving his secretary, in an apparent effort by the government to clear away distractions ahead of a debate on key legislation. Agriculture Minister Tadamori Oshima, brought into the cabinet in a reshuffle last year, had been under fire for months over allegations including the embezzlement of ?6 million (US$50,100) by one of his secretaries. "I handed in my resignation and it was accepted," Oshima said. His decision deprives the opposition of ammunition against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and helps clear the path for discussions on "crisis legislation" aimed at boosting the government's powers in the event of an attack. Koizumi has been anxious to pass the new laws since the Sept. 11 attacks on the US.

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