WTO General Council will discuss trade spat soon

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WTO General Council will discuss trade spat soon

The World Trade Organization (WTO) will formally discuss Japan’s export restriction on key industrial materials to Korea next week.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Sunday evening that the international trade body agreed to include Japan’s trade measures on its agenda for discussion during its General Council meeting in Geneva on July 23 and 24 at Seoul’s request.

At the least, that should bring further attention to the trade restrictions from WTO member countries.

“At the General Council meeting, the government will work to improve WTO member countries’ understanding of the problems related to Japan’s measures,” said the Trade Ministry in a statement.

Korea already reported Japan’s restrictions, implemented earlier this month, to a WTO meeting on Council for Trade in Goods last Tuesday.

During last week’s meeting, Paik Ji-ah, the South Korean ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, argued that “it is inappropriate to take retaliatory economic measures for political purposes,” according to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Japan’s ambassador in Geneva reportedly explained during the meeting that its measures were based on security reasons that do not violate WTO regulations.

Experts believe that next week’s WTO discussion is meant to raise the profile of the issue among other members, and that a resolution will eventually depend on talks between Korea and Japan.

“The General Council meeting will not make a decision or settle disputes,” said Cheong In-kyo, a professor of international trade at Inha University. “There is significance in that our government created an opportunity to discuss the trade measures Japan has made.”

“Ultimately, there should be more sincere discussions with Japan,” he said.

The two countries continued with tit-for-tat rhetoric on Monday as Korea’s Trade Ministry expressed regret at Japan’s claims that Seoul did not ask for a “revocation” of Tokyo’s measures during its first official talks on the trade measures last Friday.

“Korea clearly asked for a return to normalcy, however it is regrettable that Japan claims that there was no request for revocation by just the fact that the word revocation was not mentioned,” said Park Ki-young, a spokesman for the Trade Ministry, on Monday.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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