China plans to cut the quota for Japanese auto imports from June in retaliation to Tokyo's import bans on Chinese vegetables, according to a report of the People's Daily website (www.people.com.cn).
But Japanese carmakers said they have not heard anything official.
"We are checking if it is true, as we have not heard anything official," said Nobuya Eto, a spokesman at Japan's top automaker Toyota Motor Corp.
Eto was referring to a weekend report by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper that China planned to cut its quota on Japanese vehicle imports from June to October by 40-60 percent from a year earlier, an AFP dispatch said.
It is reported that the reduction of car import quota was made in retaliation to Japan's "safeguard" temporary import restrictions to protect domestic farmers.
The measures, enforced on April 23 under the World Trade Organization's "safeguard" mechanism, targeted imports of spring onions, shiitake mushrooms and tatami mat rushes, mainly from China.
Japan's trade ministry declined to comment. It is still "checking" the validity of the report, AFP quoted a ministry official as saying.
Toyota's exports of finished cars and other motor vehicles came to 5,000 autos for the four months to April, up 132 percent from the same period last year.
"Our exports to China have been faring very well," spokesman Eto said. The company still had an import license issued from Beijing, he added.
Japan's second biggest automaker Nissan Motor was also checking the matter, a spokesman from the carmaker said.
Nissan exported 7,300 vehicles to China in January-April, up 221.7 percent from a year earlier.
Toyota announced last year it had agreed to set up a joint venture with Tianjin Xiali, a subsidiary of the Tianjin Automotive Industrial Group, to make 30,000 compact cars a year based on the Vitz/Yaris model platform.
Honda Motor Co. Ltd said last month it planned to increase its passenger car output in China through a 3.8 billion yen (US$31 million) investment in China to cope with surging demand.
Japan exported a total of 4,454,885 vehicles in 2000, of which shipments to China accounted for 47,090, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
It is reported that trade ministers from the two countries will discuss the issue of import restrictions when they meet at the APEC meeting of ministers responsible for trade to be held in Shanghai on June 6-7.
(China Daily 06/04/2001)