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WTO Investigates Japan's Hynix Tariffs

World Trade Organization will examine whether Japan is complying with a ruling against its punitive import charge on South Korean computer chips.

GENEVA (AP) -- The World Trade Organization will examine whether Japan is complying with a ruling against its punitive import charge on South Korean computer chips.

The WTO has twice ruled against a 27.2 percent charge Tokyo levies on dynamic random access memory made by South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc. Earlier this year, the WTO gave Japan until Sept. 1 to bring the tariff in line with international trade rules.

A third ruling against Japan in the dispute could lead to South Korean trade retaliation against Japanese goods or services. The WTO set up a panel Tuesday to study the matter.

Tokyo said last month it would reduce the tariff on the DRAM chips to 9.1 percent. South Korea and Hynix -- the world's second-largest manufacturer of the DRAMs widely used in personal computers -- want the duty scrapped entirely, and have threatened retaliatory measures.

Japan has "engaged in delaying tactics in order to maintain an illegal countervailing duty on imports from Korea for as long as possible," South Korea told the WTO's dispute settlement body.

It said Tokyo's decision to lower the tariff still fails to bring it into compliance with WTO rulings.

Japan said it regretted that Korea sought a new WTO investigation, adding that authorities in Tokyo have "scrupulously" followed WTO recommendations. Japan said "it stands ready to vigorously defend its position before the panel."

The United States, the European Union and Japan all have imposed duties on the chips because of what they called unfair South Korean government support for Hynix when it nearly collapsed under debt twice this decade. The WTO found some of that support illegal though it upheld Washington's 44.71 percent tariff, even as it called on Brussels and Tokyo to recalculate theirs.

The U.S. Commerce Department said last month, however, that it had "preliminarily" decided to end its duties against Hynix.

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