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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
US steps up Asian trade wars
United States trade officials have voted to impose steep tariffs on imports from two Asian countries.

The US International Trade Commission's (USITC) decision to slap higher duties on Vietnamese catfish and computer memory chips made by South Korean firm Hynix will take effect in mid-August.

Hynix Semiconductor has already vowed to fight back through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or Court of International Trade.

Hynix, the world's third biggest memory chip maker, said it was "very disappointed" by the decision.

Fish and chips

It means that Hynix's Dram (Dynamic Random Access Memory) chips will face extra tariffs of 44.7%, while importers of Vietnamese catfish must pay a further 64%.

Vietnamese-farmed fish has captured a fifth of the US market for catfish fillets.

US catfish producers had complained that Vietnamese farmed catfish fillets were being dumped on the US market at unfair prices.

The dispute is the most serious between the US and Vietnam since the two former enemies normalised trade relations two years ago.

Rejected suitor

The USTIC upheld its earlier finding that the South Korean government had unfairly subsidised Hynix's Dram - or Dynamic Random Access Memory - chips.

Defending Hynix, the South Korea Commerce Ministry said: "It is unfair to hold Hynix responsible for the falls in Dram prices, which were caused by a global market slump."

But rival US chipmaker Micron Technology, whose takeover offer Hynix rejected in April 2002, has welcomed the decision.

Hynix was teetering on the verge of collapse when it turned down Micro's takeover but was later bailed out by an alliance of South Korean banks.

Micron said the tariffs on Hynix chips supported its view that "Hynix received billions of dollars in illegal subsidies".

The USTIC decision "reaffirms that free trade must also be fair trade and demonstrates our government's decision to reinforce trade laws," said Micron chief executive Steve Appleton.

South Korea said at the time of the USITC's original report that it would take the US to the WTO global trade umpire if extra tariffs were imposed.

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23 Apr 02  |  Asia-Pacific

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