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Tokyo willing to discuss export controls with Seoul

In response to the complaint filed by the South Korean government with the World Trade Organization on the subject of Japan’s export control measures, Tokyo has expressed its willingness to have bilateral consultations with Seoul, a day before the 10-working day deadline set by the WTO, officials said Friday.

Japan’s response could be the first step in resolving the Korea-Japan trade dispute triggered by Japan’s export restrictions. 

Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo (Yonhap)
Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo (Yonhap)

“The Japanese government has responded to the Korean government’s request for bilateral consultations in accordance with WTO rules,” said an official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Friday. 

The letter from Tokyo was sent to Korean trade representatives stationed in Geneva, the ministry said, adding that dates for bilateral consultations will be discussed through diplomatic channels.

Bilateral consultations between the parties are a routine procedure and the first step in the WTO dispute resolution process. Japan has never failed to comply with this process in the past.

This is a follow-up measure after Korea brought its concerns about Japan’s export restrictions to the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement body Sept. 11, accusing Tokyo of carrying out politically motivated retaliatory measures.

The WTO complaint concerned Japan’s restrictions on exports to Korea of three high-tech materials crucial to the production of chips and display panels: fluorinated polyimide, photoresist and hydrogen fluoride. Japan took the action July 4, after Korea’s Supreme Court decided to hold Japanese companies liable for having taken advantage of forced labor during World War II.

In principle, bilateral consultations should begin within 30 days of a request. It usually takes about 15 months for the WTO panel to make a decision, beginning from the time of the bilateral consultations. 

By Shin Ji-hye (