U.S. industry watchful to EU action in tech goods spat

John Neuffer, vice president for global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council said, "The solutions they offered for each of the products were very disappointing and left a lot of ambiguity where there could have been clarity. It left us asking a lot of questions about what was going to happen to these products when they hit the border."

Several years ago the United States, Japan and Taiwan ago challenged EU tariffs on flat-panel computer displays, multi-function printers and television set-top boxes that they said violated the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement or ITA.

A WTO panel backed the three countries in a ruling last year that the EU decided not to appeal.

"We’ll comply with this panel, the conclusions, but not more than that," Jean Luc Demarty, a top European trade official said. "I know that there are some frustrations here and there. We continue the dialogue, but it will be full compliance by the deadline of the end of June."

U.S. trade officials calculated worldwide trade in the three products at $44 billion in 2009 and said the EU’s 27 member states imported about $7 billion worth of that total.

David Weller, a partner with the WilmerHale law firm that has represented U.S. industry in the case, said there were two problems with how the European Commission proposes to obey.

The guidance gives customs officials a lot of discretion to decide how they are going to classify flat-panel displays and set-top boxes, "not giving any legal certainty that these products will actually get duty-free treatment".


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