UPDATE 1-Japan may seek WTO help to resolve India steel tariff dispute

(Adds METI official’s comments and details)

Japan said it may ask the World Trade
Organization (WTO) to help resolve a dispute related to India’s
“safeguard” tariffs on the import of hot-rolled steel.

Prompted by massive steel exports from the China, the
world’s top producer, countries including the United States and
Australia as well as the European Union have imposed duties on
steel imports. As the second-largest global steel producer,
Japan’s own exports are potentially under pressure because of
these protectionist stances.

India has extended its safeguard import taxes on some steel
products until March 2018, in a bid to stop cheap overseas
purchases from flooding its market and bolster the domestic
steel sector.

Japan will make repeated requests to the Indian authorities
to ensure the consistency of their measures with the WTO
agreements, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
(METI) said in its annual report on unfair trade on Wednesday.

The India safeguard tariffs were placed as one of the
priority issues that the METI will be working on, said Osamu
Nishiwaki, director of rules and dispute settlement at METI, on
Thursday.

“We will step up our bilateral discussions with India over
the safeguard measures,” he said.

Asked whether Japan may consider bringing the issue to the
WTO soon, Nishiwaki said it will depend on the results of the
bilateral talks.

Japan exported about 1.25 million tonnes of hot-rolled steel
to India in 2015, or about 10 percent of its total hot-rolled
exports of 13 million last year, according to the Japan Iron and
Steel Federation.

Japan earlier criticized India’s tariffs and a decision to
put minimum prices on imported iron and steel at a WTO meeting
in April.

The METI report on Wednesday also identified Vietnam’s
safeguard measures against semi-finished steel products and
steel bars as policies that may not be consistent with
international rules.

Vietnam began provisionally imposing additional tariffs of
about 23 percent on semi-finished steel products and 14 percent
on steel bars from March, the report said.

The global trade dispute over steel escalated last month
after the U.S. slapped Chinese steelmakers with final import
duties of 522 percent on cold-rolled flat steel.

Still, Chinese steel exports rose 3.7 percent to 9.42
million tonnes in May from the previous month, customs data
showed on Wednesday, as mills continued to ship output abroad.

(Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru and Yuka Obayashi
in Tokyo; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Christian Schmollinger)

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