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U.S. Files WTO Case Challenging EU Tariffs on Certain Technology Products

 

 

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Susan
C. Schwab announced today that the United States has requested World
Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement consultations with the European
Union (EU) regarding the duties they are imposing on certain products that
should be duty-free under the WTO Information Technology Agreement
(ITA).


“It is critical that
the European Union live up to its ITA obligations instead of imposing new taxes
and duties on innovative technologies,” Schwab said.  “The EU should be
working with the United
States to promote new technologies, not finding
protectionist gimmicks to apply new duties to these products.  Therefore,
we urge the EU to eliminate permanently the new duties and to cease manipulating
tariffs to discourage technological innovation.”


Japan also announced today that it has requested
dispute settlement consultations with the EU on this
matter.


Background


The EU in the past
several years has adopted a series of measures that resulted in new duties on
imports of specific high-tech products – cable and satellite boxes that can
access the internet, flat panel computer monitors, and certain computer printers
that can also scan, fax and/or copy.  Global exports of these products were
estimated at over $70 billion in 2007.

These electronic
products were included in the ITA.  The ITA is a plurilateral agreement
negotiated under the auspices of the WTO in 1996 that eliminated duties/import
tariffs on a wide range of information technology
products.


These IT products
are used by millions of people every day, and produced by both developed and
developing countries.  However, the EU claims it can now charge duties on
these products simply because they incorporate newer technologies or additional
features. 


In effect, the EU is
taxing innovation – a move that could impair continued technological development
in the information technology industry and raise prices for millions of
businesses and consumers.


The United
States has raised its concerns with EU
officials on repeated occasions over the past 20 months in both bilateral and
multilateral settings.  The issue has been the subject of at least four
rounds of informal discussions under the auspices of the WTO ITA Committee in
Geneva over the
previous year.


The first step in a
WTO dispute is for both parties to formally consult.  If consultations fail
to resolve the dispute within 60 days, the United
States will be entitled to request that a panel
be established to determine whether the EU is acting consistently with its WTO
obligations.


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