WTO gets heavy with Japan over illegal DRAM duty

Trade body investigating to see if previous orders ignored

TODO alt text

With cutthroat competition in all sectors, the market for wholesale computer memory chips is a notoriously murky one, but we hadn't realised the World Trade Organisation was about to get heavy on one of the largest players.

Almost a year after telling Japan to stop its protectionist practices and remove a 27 per cent duty on imported Korean DRAM chips, the WTO has found the need to investigate Japan yet again.

Duty dropped

This time the business body is checking if Japan really has scrapped the 'illegal' tariff. Reports from Korean exporters suggest that the duty has merely been dropped to around 9 per cent, instead of been abandoned completely.

Korean officials told the WTO, "Despite its earlier promise to comply with the ruling, Japan has instead engaged in delaying tactics in order to maintain an illegal countervailing duty on imports from Korea."

Hynix crisis

In its defence last year, the Japanese side said the duty was necessary to balance what it said was an unfair Korean state bailout of Hynix in 2002.

Korean firm Hynix is currently the second-biggest memory supplier and competes in Japan with local vendor Elpida.