South Korea and Japan on Friday hold their first bilateral dialogue in Geneva under the dispute procedures of the World Trade Organization (WTO) after Seoul filed complaint over Tokyo’s restrictions on shipments of three materials used in chips and displays to Korea.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said on Thursday that Korea dispatched Chung Hae-kwan, director-general of multilateral and legal affairs at the ministry to represent Seoul. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced it will hold bilateral talks with Korea to discuss export regulations on semiconductor and display materials.
The meeting comes a month after Korea filed a complaint with the WTO on Sept. 11 over Japan’s export control on three high-tech materials essential for the production of chips and displays, arguing that the move goes against the principle of free trade.
Korea pointed out that the first-ever export curbs targeting three materials – hydrogen fluoride, fluorinated polyimide, and photoresist – violates the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), and regulations related to the technology transfer of the three materials go against the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The export curbs are seen as an economic retaliation against Korea over Seoul court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate for Korean victims of forced wartime labor. Japan claims compensation issues have been settled in a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties.
States under dispute must try to solve the problem before the WTO formally gets involved.
Japan accepted Korea’s request for bilateral talks on Sept. 20 – 9 days after Seoul filed a suit – as the country facing complaint must respond to the appeal within 10 days after receiving request for talks. Accepting bilateral negotiations is considered a routine procedure when a complaint is raised with the WTO. Japan has never rejected a request for bilateral talks in the past when it faced complaints.
Under Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), Korea and Japan must launch bilateral negotiations within 30 days after request for talks has been made or within a period agreed by the two countries. Korea and Japan, through diplomatic channel, discussed details such as date and location for the talks and agreed to hold director general-level negotiations on Friday.
It is generally the case that the first bilateral talks for WTO dispute settlement is held between working-level officials such as of ministry directors, but the upcoming talks between Korea and Japan has been elevated to that of director general-level. Korea is known to have requested Japan for a higher-level meeting given importance of the issue, to which Japan accepted.
By Lim Sung-hyun and Lee Eun-joo
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