WTO top court backs Japan in case against South Korea duties

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body on Tuesday broadly upheld an April 2018 panel ruling against South Korea’s anti-dumping duties on imports of pneumatic valves from Japan.

The Asian countries are embroiled in a widening political and economic dispute that erupted over forced labor in World War Two and banned trade with North Korea.

The original WTO panel found that Japan showed that Korean authorities had acted inconsistently with some provisions of the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement in determining injury to domestic producers.

WTO judges, in a mixed decision issued on Tuesday, called on South Korea to bring its measures into conformity with WTO rules, but rejected two technical aspects. Seoul had also failed to provide a non-confidential summary of confidential business information, they said.

Japan said that Japanese valves are mainly used in equipment for semiconductor manufacturing and automotive engine production where high-level precision is crucial, and do not directly compete with Korean valves, which are low-end products commonly used in things like equipment for painting cars.

Japan’s trade minister Hiroshige Seko, in a statement issued in Tokyo, welcomed the WTO’s decision as having “accepted core claims of Japan”.

He called on South Korea to halt its “unjust measures against Japanese companies” and noted that Japan had a right to invoke counter-measures under WTO if Seoul fails to comply.

The value of pneumatic exports to South Korea last year was 6.4 billion yen ($60 million), Japanese industry said.

There was no immediate comment from South Korea.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Makiko Yamazaki in Tokyo; editing by Emma Farge and Ed Osmond