The International Trade Law Review: Japan
Overview of trade remedies
The term 'trade remedies' generally refers to the three remedy tools approved under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements regarding unfair trading, and the like. These three tools are anti-dumping duty measures, countervailing duty measures and safeguard measures. The aim of these measures is to protect domestic industries and to provide them with remedies against unfair imports from a foreign country or for other special reasons, and they involve designating, inter alia, the product, supplier and supplying country, and imposing additional custom duties or restricting the quantity of imports allowed.
In particular, anti-dumping duty measures and countervailing duty measures are established for the purpose of eliminating injury to domestic industry caused by unfair importing from a foreign country. To utilise these measures, the domestic producer (companies, organisations, etc.) must file a petition to the Japanese government requesting the imposition of a duty. The government will conduct an inspection based on this petition and, if the statutory requirements are satisfied, a custom duty will be imposed pursuant to laws and regulations.
The following sections describe these three trade remedies as they are applicable to Japan, as well as recent changes to the system.
i Anti-dumping duty measures
Anti-dumping duty measures are special customs duty measures imposed on a certain product when the export price of the product is lower than the price at which it is sold in the exporting country (dumping), and this dumping is causing injury to the domestic industry in the importing country. To counter this, a dumping margin is added to the domestic selling price to render the dumped price a 'fair' price. The amount of anti-dumping duty cannot exceed the difference between the export price and the domestic selling price of the product.
The anti-dumping duty is a trade relief remedy sanctioned under the WTO Agreements (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Anti-Dumping Agreement). In Japan, this remedy is set forth in the Customs Tariff Act and the Cabinet Order regarding Anti-Dumping Duty (the AD Order), among others, and is also subject to WTO Agreements (the GATT Anti-Dumping Agreement) as well as domestic laws and regulations. In addition, there are the Guidelines for Anti-dumping Duty Proceedings (the AD Proceedings Guidelines) and an 'Anti-dumping Duty Petition Handbook' that exist to supplement domestic laws and regulations.
Anti-dumping duty measures can be invoked when the following requirements apply pursuant to Article 8 of the Customs Tariff Act:
a It must be determined that dumping has occurred (i.e., the product must be imported at a price lower than the normal price in the exporting country).
In principle, the 'normal price' is calculated based on the price at which the product is sold to consumers in the exporting country ('exporting country domestic selling price') (Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the AD Order). The exporting country domestic selling price used must be the price used in transactions with individual purchasers.
However, if there exists no exporting country domestic selling price or if it is deemed inappropriate to apply the exporting country domestic selling price, one of the following prices is used (Article 2, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the AD Order):
- the selling price for export of 'like' products that are exported from the supplying country of the relevant product to an appropriate third country ('third country export price'); or
- the production cost of the relevant product plus management fee, sales expenses, general expenses and regular profit for products similar to the relevant product produced in the country of origin (the 'constructed normal price').
In addition, Japan has appointed China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao) and Vietnam as non-market economy nations. If a producer of a product imported from either nation cannot clearly demonstrate that the market economy conditions prevail (in its market), then the normal price may be calculated by using the exporting country domestic selling price, third country export price or the constructed normal price of a 'like' product exported from a country that is at a similar stage of economic development comparable to the country of origin of the relevant product (Article 2, Paragraph 3 of the AD Order).
b The dumping must be causing or could potentially cause material injury to the Japanese industry, or there must exist a fact that the establishment of Japanese industry is materially hindered by the dumping.
'Japanese industry' means Japanese producers that produce at least 50 per cent of Japan's total production of the same type of product deemed to have been dumped (excluding certain producers such as those who have a direct or indirect controlling relationship with the suppliers or producers of the relevant imported product).
c There must be a causal relationship between the dumping and the injury caused to the Japanese industry. If the injury to the Japanese industry is caused by factors other than the dumping, such as an increase of imports of a non-dumped product or a decrease in demand, among others, then anti-dumping duty measures cannot be invoked.
d The measures must be necessary to protect the Japanese industry. For example, if the exporter makes a promise to revise the export price, or the applicant withdraws its petition or other changes in circumstances occur, rendering it unnecessary to protect the Japanese industry after a petition for anti-dumping duty measures has been filed or an investigation by an authority is initiated, then anti-dumping duty measures cannot be invoked.
Method of imposing anti-dumping duty measures
A cabinet order is enacted to invoke anti-dumping duty measures in each individual case (Article 8, Paragraph 2 of the Customs Tariff Act). The relevant cabinet order designates the product in question, the supplier and the supplying country subject to the anti-dumping duty measures and the period for which the duty is imposed.
The anti-dumping duty is imposed on the relevant product, supplier and supplying country designated by the cabinet order for the designated period, in addition to the tariff rate normally imposed on the relevant product, to the extent that the sum does not exceed the difference between the normal price and the export price to Japan (dumping margin).
Anti-dumping duty measures are implemented for a maximum of five years; however, this period may be extended if reviewed as appropriate during that period (Article 8, Paragraphs 1 and 27 of the Customs Tariff Act).
Initiation of investigation
Case example of invocation
Compared with other countries, there have not been many anti-dumping investigations in Japan.2
In the past five years, four cases have been subject to anti-dumping investigation: (1) tris-phosphate (chloropropyl) in China (tentative decision date: 25 May 2020); (2) carbon steel butt welding fittings originating in Korea and China (invocation date: 31 March 2018); (3) polyethylene terephthalate with a high degree of polymerisation originating in China (invocation date: 28 December 2017); and (4) potassium hydroxide originating in Korea and China (invocation date: 9 August 2016).
ii Countervailing duty measures
Countervailing duty measures are special duty measures imposed for the purpose of countervailing the effect of subsidy from the exporting country's government where the export of the subsidised product is causing injury to the domestic industry of the importing country.
The countervailing duty system is one of the trade remedies approved under the WTO Agreements (the GATT Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures). In Japan, investigation proceedings are governed by the Customs Tariff Act (Article 7) and the Cabinet Order on Countervailing Duty (the CVD Order). In addition, the Guidelines for Countervailing Duty Proceedings (the CVD Proceedings Guidelines) exist to supplement the WTO Agreements, domestic laws and regulations, and to support the smooth operation of the system.
Countervailing duty measures can be invoked when the following requirements apply pursuant to Article 7 of the Customs Tariff Act:
First, it must be determined that import of the subsidised product has, in fact, occurred.
Subsidies that are subject to the countervailing duties refer to any subsidy that bestows benefits, such as gifts and forgiveness of debts, and has specificity.3
It must be determined that the import of a product that was directly or indirectly subsidised for the production or export thereof in a foreign country caused, or could potentially cause, material injury to the Japanese industry (limited to the Japanese industry producing the same kind of product as the imported product so subsidised), or the establishment of the Japanese industry4 must be materially hindered by the import.
A causal relationship between the import of the subsidised product and the injury to domestic industry must be demonstrated. If the injury is caused by other factors, such as increased import of a non-subsidised product or a decrease in demand as a whole, those factors will be naturally taken into account when assessing the causal relationship between the subsidised import and the material injury to domestic industry.
Last, invocation of duty measures must be necessary to protect the Japanese industry.
Method of countervailing duty measures
A cabinet order must be enacted to invoke countervailing duty measures in each individual case (Article 8, Paragraph 1 of the Customs Tariff Act). The relevant cabinet order designates the product in question, the exporter, the producer, the exporting country or country of origin of the product, and the period for which the duty will be imposed.
The countervailing duty is imposed in addition to any normally imposed tariffs (agreed tariff rate, basic tariff rate, temporary tariff rate or preferential tariff rate) in an amount no more than the amount of the relevant subsidy.
The CVD Proceedings Guidelines set out the basic thinking behind the calculation of typical subsidy amounts. Subsidies are calculated from the receiver's point of view, but the calculation method for each subsidy amount is determined appropriately through individual investigation based on the nature and terms and conditions thereof.5
Countervailing duty measures are implemented for a maximum of five years; however, this period may be extended if reviewed as appropriate during that period (Article 7, Paragraphs 1 and 27 of the Customs Tariff Act).
Initiation of investigation
Case example of invocation
In Japan, there has only been one countervailing duty case to date – the Hynix DRAM (Korea) case. Imposition of countervailing duties was determined on 27 January 2016 at a rate of 27.2 per cent for the period from 27 January 2006 to 31 August 2008, and 9.1 per cent from 1 September 2008 to 23 April 2009, and withdrawn on 23 April 2009.
iii Safeguard measures
The term 'safeguard measures' generally refers to the imposition of customs duties or restrictions on quantity of imports allowed in order to avoid injury to the importing country's domestic industry caused by a sharp increase in imports of a particular product, when these measures are recognised as urgently necessary for the national economy.
Safeguard measures are trade remedies approved under the WTO Agreements (the GATT Agreement on Safeguards). In Japan, quantity restriction measures are regulated under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act, the Import Trade Control Order and the Regulations to Govern Emergency Measures to be taken in Response to an Increase in the Importation of Goods, while customs duty measures are provided for in the Customs Tariff Act (Article 9) and the Cabinet Order Relating to Emergency Duties. These domestic laws and regulations are also supplemented by the 'Establishment of the Guidelines for Procedures relating to Emergency Measures to be taken in response to an Increase in the Importation of Goods' and the 'Guidelines for Procedures relating to Emergency Duty, etc.'.
Requirements for invocation
Emergency duty measures (or safeguard measures) can be invoked when the following conditions apply pursuant to Article 9 of the Customs Tariff Act.
Increase in imports
As the most fundamental requirement for imposition of emergency duty, there must be an increase in the imports of a particular kind of product resulting from a price decrease in a foreign country or some other unforeseen development of circumstances (Article 9, Paragraph 1 of the Customs Tariff Act).
'Unforeseen development of circumstances' is the domestic legislative equivalent of the wording 'a result of unforeseen developments' as used in Article 19 of the GATT 1994, under which it is agreed that 'unforeseen developments' means the development of circumstances arising after negotiation of related tariff concessions that it 'would not be reasonable to expect that the negotiators of the country making the concession could and should have foreseen at the time when the concession was negotiated'.6
The increase in imports may be due to either natural or artificial causes, and may include cases in which the absolute import quantity decreases or remains the same but the percentage of imported product increases. However, if, for example, there is a price decrease in a foreign country and the domestic industry takes countermeasures against the low-priced imported product by marking down its own domestic product price, then emergency duty measures cannot be imposed if there is no increase in the absolute quantity or shares of imports, as there exists no increase in imports in any sense.
Serious injury to domestic industry or threat thereof
Even if there is an increase in the imports of a particular product, emergency duty measures cannot be imposed if there is no serious injury to Japanese industry.
Similarly to anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty, 'Japanese industry' here means producers that produce a substantial proportion of the total domestic production (roughly at least 50 per cent), as a proportion of either all domestic producers of like products and directly competing products, or those producers of the relevant product itself. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that emergency duty measures are imposed only when a substantial portion of the relevant industry is injured rather than to protect individual entities that failed to compete with foreign import products.
However, unlike anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties, the scope of 'Japanese industry' is not limited to producers of 'like goods' but extends to 'Japanese industry involved in the production of products that compete directly with such imported product in their uses', and is therefore more broadly defined. This is based on the idea that in the event of unfair conduct, such as dumping or subsidy, the scope of 'Japanese industry' must be limited so as to strictly assess the facts regarding unfair conduct. In the case of emergency duty measures, which are triggered by injury resulting from fair trade, the requirements regarding the scope of injury needs to be stricter. However, once those requirements are met, the remedies are more broadly available to domestic industry, including competing industries.
'Serious injury' means a greater level of injury than the 'material injury' required in the case of anti-dumping duty or countervailing measures, and, in practice, it is determined case by case. Also, serious injury does not actually need to have been realised; the threat of serious injury can be sufficient if it is clearly imminent.7
Causal relationship between an increase in imports and serious injury to domestic industry
Even if there is an increase in imports of a specific product and serious injury to the domestic industry has been established, emergency duty measures will not be imposed unless a link can be shown between the injury and the increase in imports.
Urgent necessity for the national economy
Another requirement that must be met before emergency duty measures can be invoked is that there must be an urgent necessity for the national economy.
Emergency duty measures, which are taken against fair trade, offer protection to domestic industry, but at the same time they are disadvantageous to domestic consumers of the product. Therefore, before these measures are invoked, it must be carefully assessed from the viewpoint of the national economy whether the protection of the relevant industry is truly necessary based on Japan's industry policies, and whether the invocation of those measures is necessary at that point in time.8
Method of emergency duty measures
A cabinet order must be enacted to invoke emergency duty measures in each individual case. The relevant cabinet order designates the product in question and the period for which the duty will be imposed.
Emergency duty measures are implemented by way of imposition of customs duty or restriction on import volume to the extent necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury and to facilitate adjustment. Emergency duty measures are applied to the entire world indiscriminately. When imposing volume restrictions, the cap must be at least the average import volume for the past three years, in principle.
Emergency duty measures may be imposed on all specified products imported during the specified period or on the part of the specified products exceeding a certain quantity or value, in addition to normal customs duty, in an amount equal to or less than the amount corresponding to the difference between the customs value of the products and the appropriate wholesale price in Japan of like products or similar products, minus the amount of normal customs duty. If the specified products are subject to tariff concessions under the WTO Agreements, emergency duty may, by withdrawing the concessions or modifying the concessions within a certain tariff rate, be imposed at a certain tariff rate or the rate so modified with respect to all the specified products imported during the specified period or the part of the specified products exceeding a certain quantity or value.
Emergency duty measures are implemented for a maximum of four years; however, if it is deemed that Japanese industry will continue to suffer serious injury owing to increased imports of the specified product even after the end of that period and it is deemed that the Japanese industry is in the process of structural adjustment, then the implementation period may be extended up to a total of eight years (inclusive of the aforementioned four years)(Article 9, Paragraphs 1 and 10 of the Customs Tariff Act).
Initiation of investigation
Case example of invocation
In Japan, there has been only one emergency duty measures case to date (a safeguard investigation regarding Welsh onions, shiitake mushrooms and tatami mats). In this case, an investigation was initiated in December 2000 upon request by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. In April 2001, Japan invoked temporary safeguard measures for 200 days, setting a tariff quota and imposing additional tariffs on imports of Welsh onions, shiitake mushrooms and tatami mats that exceeded the quota. However, these temporary measures did not lead to the invocation of definite measures, and instead were terminated in November 2001.
i Trade agreements between Japan and the United States
After the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in January 2017, discussions on trade relations between Japan and the United States have been held within a bilateral framework. On 7 October 2019, the Trade Agreement between Japan and the United States of America (the Japan-US Trade Agreement) and the Agreement between Japan and the United States of America concerning Digital Trade (the Japan-US Digital Trade Agreement) were signed in Washington, DC, and both agreements entered into force on 1 January 2020.
The US-Japan Trade Agreement abolishes or reduces tariffs on agricultural and industrial products to expand bilateral trade between Japan and the United States, which accounts for approximately 30 per cent of global gross domestic product, in a strong, stable and mutually beneficial manner. Specifically, the US side will abolish or reduce tariffs mainly on industrial products, while the Japanese side is required to abolish or reduce tariffs on certain agricultural products and processed foods, including pork and beef.
In addition, the Japan-US Digital Trade Agreement provides rules to promote smooth, reliable and free digital trade between the two countries. Given that the Agreement stipulates rules at a level equal to or higher than the TPP, the business community hoped that Japan would contribute to discussions on the formulation of e-commerce rules led by the WTO and Group 20. However, there is a wide difference of opinion between countries with regard to the distribution and protection of digital data; for example, the United States places emphasis on free data distribution, the European Union aims for reliable data protection, and China seeks data management based on national sovereignty. Therefore, how to adjust the position of each country is a future issue.
A withdrawal agreement was signed between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and the UK withdrew from the EU on 31 January 2020. In accordance with the withdrawal agreement, a 'transition period' was established until 31 December 2020, and during this period, EU law, including international agreements concluded between the European Union and third countries, including Japan, will be applied to the United Kingdom. Similarly, Japanese products imported into the United Kingdom during the transition period will also be subject to the tariff rates under the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
However, after the transition period, if it cannot be extended, the tariffs between Japan and the United Kingdom will revert to the rates before the effectuation of the EPA. For example, for exports from Japan to the European Union, the 10 per cent tariff on automobiles will be abolished in the eighth year, while the tariff for exports to the European Union will be reduced to 8.8 per cent in the first year after the effectuation of the Japan-EU EPA and to 7.5 per cent from the second year. However, 10 per cent tariffs will be applied to exports to the United Kingdom because of the departure from the European Union. In this way, as the governments of Japan and the United Kingdom will no longer be able to enjoy the benefits of the Japan-EU EPA, it is expected that the EPA negotiations will be focused towards the Japan-UK EPA coming into effect in January next year.
iii Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
Negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) started in November 2012. Despite the negotiation progress being delayed, the Partnership was aiming for a final conclusion in 2019. However, at a Joint Summit on 4 November 2019, the leaders abandoned the goal of a final conclusion by the end of that year and agreed that 15 countries, with the exception of India, would begin work towards signing the Partnership in 2020. At the same summit, it was confirmed that India had important issues that remained unresolved and that all RCEP members would work together in a mutually satisfactory manner to resolve these unresolved issues. However, shortly after the meeting, India announced its withdrawal from the negotiations.
If the RCEP had been concluded, it would have created a huge free trade area that would have accounted for approximately half of the world's population and about 30 per cent of its volume of trade. However, without India, the population would decrease by approximately 37 per cent and the volume of trade would fall by approximately 7 per cent, so the effects of India's withdrawal on the participating countries is significant. On 30 April 2020, a meeting of chief negotiators was held, representing 15 countries (excluding India), during which their commitment to the signing of the RCEP Agreement in 2020, and to their commitment to continue working with India, were reaffirmed, given that India has been a valuable participant since the beginning. It is considered that RCEP participating countries intend to aim for the final conclusion of the RCEP, including India, during 2020.
Recent changes to the regime
There have been no major legislative changes recently, except for the amendment of the relevant laws discussed in Section V.
Japan, originally acknowledging itself as a trading nation, has been hesitant in utilising anti-dumping and other trade remedy measures; however, with the rise of other Asian nations and the WTO dispute resolution rules becoming well established, the number of investigations and disputes handled has increased. The three cases discussed in Section VI are examples of the recent trend.
1 Yuko Nihonmatsu and Fumiko Oikawa are partners at Atsumi & Sakai.
3 A 'subsidy that has specificity' means (1) any subsidy where the subject of the subsidy is explicitly limited to specific corporations and (2) in addition to (1), any subsidy where sufficient grounds exist for believing it is possible to have specificity.
4 'Japanese industry' means Japanese producers that produce at least 50 per cent of Japan's total production of the same type of product as the imported product (excluding certain producers such as those who have control over the suppliers or importers of the relevant imported product) (Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Cabinet Order on Countervailing Duty [CVD Order]).
5 CVD Proceedings Guidelines, Pages 6 to 9.
6 'Special Tariff Konmentaru', Page 729.
7 id., at Pages 729 to 730.
8 id., at Page 731.