S. Korea airs concern over Japan's curbs on exports of tech-related material at WTO

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Photo taken on April 12, 2018 shows the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. [Photo/Xinhua]

South Korea on Tuesday expressed concern over export control measures imposed lately by Japan on material inputs for semiconductors and displays, in a meeting at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

During the meeting of the WTO's Council for Trade in Goods, South Korea said Japan has only been citing "damage of trust" as the reason behind its tightening export control measures without elaborating on what basis they have in WTO rules.

Japan imposed stricter regulations on exports to South Korea last week of materials vital to the South Korean tech industry. The materials, including fluorine polyimide, photoresist and etching gas, are used to produce semiconductors and display panels that inevitably influence the manufacturing of smartphones, TVs and other tech products.

In addition, Japan is also reviewing whether to change the "white list status" of South Korea, which will result in even more tightening trade measures, recalled South Korea in the meeting.

For South Korea, there are no provisions in the WTO agreements which allow a member country to take export control due to a "damage of trust" between countries. South Korea said it worries this matter might end up jeopardizing the spirit of free and fair trade which WTO members endeavor to protect.

South Korea further noted that Japan, at the G20 summit in Osaka, had called for free, fair, non-discriminatory and predictable trading environment but that it has failed to do so in this matter.

South Korea warned that the tightening export control measures will disrupt the global value chain for electronic products and affect companies worldwide, requesting Japan to withdraw its measures.

In response, Japan said the measures are not a trade embargo but an operational review necessary for proper implementation of Japan's export control system based on its security concerns. It said a review of export controls is conducted by every country including South Korea, adding that it is pointless to say such a review goes against free trade or principles adopted in G20 summit in Osaka.

Japan explained that the measures taken by Japan simply revert the existing simplified procedures applied to South Korea to usual procedures, which are fully consistent with WTO agreement.

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