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US Commerce Secretary Defends Controversial Steel Tariffs in Asia - 2002-04-19

The U.S. commerce secretary visits Asia, in part to defend controversial tariffs that Washington imposed on steel imports. Donald Evans met with two Japanese cabinet ministers on Friday to explain Washington's position.

Commerce Secretary Donald Evans met with Japan's trade and transport ministers to tell them Tokyo can expect no immediate compensation for the new steel tariffs. However, earlier in the day, he told reporters there might be an exception made for Japan down the road. He did not elaborate on that comment.

The temporary tariffs, which took effect less than a month ago, are as high as 30 percent. Japan, China, South Korea and a number of other of America's trading partners have criticized the tariffs and have threatened to retaliate.

At a news conference Friday, Mr. Evans brushed off any worries that the World Trade Organization would tell the United States it must compensate nations harmed by the tariffs. "We're totally within our rights of WTO safeguards. Others that don't agree with that can take it to the dispute resolution council in the WTO," he said. "We can talk it about it there but we know that we are certainly within our rights under the WTO to impose the safeguard measures."

The commerce secretary added that the tariffs are temporary. He said they are meant to give America's ailing steel industry time to restructure and become more competitive in the face of what he called "market distorting practices." "I think it's very clear that this president will continue to lead this world in free trade," he said. "This president will continue to push this world toward free trade, but a very important part of that is also a level playing field and everybody playing by the same rules."

Mr. Evans heads to China on Saturday. High on the agenda there is a discussion on about piracy of American intellectual property, such as software and movies.