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S. Korea and Japan enter bilateral talks in Geneva

Posted October. 11, 2019 07:40,   

Updated October. 11, 2019 07:40


A bilateral talk between South Korea and Japan will be held on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, the first consultations after Japan’s decision to control three materials critical to the Korean semiconductor and display industries. Bilateral consultations are one of the formal stages in the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process, but it is drawing much attention as, unusually for the talk, it will be a high-level discussion.

The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy confirmed Thursday that Chung Hae-kwan, director general of the new trade order strategy office, left for Geneva to participate in the bilateral consultations to be held on next day. The consultations have been initiated by Seoul, which filed a complaint with the WTO over Japanese’s trade restrictions on Sept. 11. The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) mechanism requires the parties involved to hold bilateral consultations within 30 days after the complaint is filed or within the period set by the parties.

Bilateral discussion is usually held one time, but if the parties fail to settle the dispute within 60 days, an adjudication panel is set up, which normally takes approximately two years. In addition, if the panel report is not accepted by the parties, the Appellate Body provides the final ruling. However, the dispute will be even more difficult to resolve if it goes to the Appellate Body as the United States is refusing to appoint new judges.

The Korean government is looking closely at the situation by sending senior officials for the talks with Japan. Usually, the consultations involve working-level officials. The South Korean ministry said Japan accepted its request to hold a high-level talk, a move by Seoul to produce tangible results such as the removal of the new trade restrictions. “We will see if there are any solutions that both countries can agree on,” Chung said before leaving for Geneva, while Kyodo News said that it is unclear if consultations will resolve the dispute.

Hye-Ryung Choi herstory@donga.com