WTO backs complaint over EU hi-tech duties

16:41, August 17, 2010      

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The World Trade Organization sided with the United States, Japan and China's Taiwan in their complaint against EU duties on high-technology products, according to media reports Tuesday.

The WTO panel of arbitrators said, "having found that the European Communities has acted inconsistently ... we recommend that the Dispute Settlement Body request the European Communities to bring the relevant measures into conformity with its obligations."

The U.S., Japan and China's Taiwan had accused the EU of violating the WTO's Information Technology Agreement by arguing that some new products fall outside the scope of the agreement.

The EU has levied tariffs ranging from 6 percent to 14 percent on products including television set-top boxes, flat-screen panels and printers with multiple functions, and argued that the agreement doesn't apply since the products serve multiple purposes.

The U.S. Monday hailed the WTO ruling and described it as an "important victory for U.S. technology manufacturers and workers."

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement that "this ruling affirms the principle that changes in technology are not an excuse to apply new duties to products covered by the Information Technology Agreement."

However, an EU official criticized the ruling as too broad, warning it "may make it more difficult for negotiators to agree on new commitments because of the risk that those commitments may be understood in a manner which at least some of the parties did not intend."

No decision has been made on whether EU will exercise its right to appeal the decision within the next 60 days, the official said in a statement.



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